From IMDB: Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout
Sigh. I had such high hopes for this movie. I really enjoy the dystopia/sci-fi genre, so I thought this one looked great. Unfortunately, this movie was all about its message. It was so heavy-handed that it was completely impossible (for me at least) to enjoy as entertainment. Now, I haven’t seen ‘District 9’ so I really didn’t even know what I was getting into, but all I wanted was a little humor, maybe a noble intention, maybe some cool shiny gun….but no, all we got was pain, misery, and a myriad of confused accents from Jodie Foster. The only redeeming quality about this movie was Sharlto Copley’s excellent performance, and he played a sadistic maniac, so even that was very uncomfortable.
All in all, I was not a fan.
Elysium marks Neill Blomkamp’s first film since his dark horse directorial debut “District 9” won four Oscars, including Best Picture, in 2009. The previews promised some Matt Damon powersuit action, which is about two words more than I need to justify seeing a film (note: the unnecessary words are indeed “Matt” and “Damon”).
Casting: Matt Damon plays blue collar worker and ex-car thief Max. The character felt like a weird fusion of Vin Diesel’s character in the Fast and Furious Movies (a bald car thief called in for one last job) and Ben Affleck’s character from pretty much any of his Boston films (down on his luck blue collar worker just trying to make an honest buck). Frankly, either of the actors I just described probably would have improved on Matt Damon’s work here. He does a fine job, but is not particularly memorable or compelling. Also, just in case Mr. Diesel reads this, I’ve got a killer script about illegal street racing. IN SPACE. My people will talk to your people.
Jodie Foster plays suspiciously foreign (Welsh? French? Canadian?) Defense Secretary Delacourt. Again, it felt like this role was trying to hit too many notes. Her accent changes between scenes and I was never certain what accents these were supposed to be. Some sort of high-end country club accent, I’m guessing, but none of the other guests at the country club on Elysium seemed to have it so maybe Delacourt recently immigrated to Elysium herself. That would have been an interesting plot thread but I didn’t see it in the movie.
Sharlto Copley plays the unhinged war criminal Kruger, who I think was some sort of military contractor for Elysium and not actually part of their armed forces. Kruger seems like a slightly more unhinged version of Murdock, the character Sharlto Copley played in The A-Team, which of course means he was the most entertaining of the three big leads.
In addition to these three, Alice Braga plays Max’s childhood friend and local nurse Frey, William Fichtner plays villainous corporate executive John Carlyle, Diego Luna plays Max’s friend Julio and Wagner Moura plays the handi-capable crime lord Spider. Faran Tahir also has essentially a cameo as Patel, who I think was President of Elysium, the most irrelevant most powerful man in the world (and beyond!).
Max works in a robot factory until one day he accidentally gets lethally irradiated. With death only 5 days away, his desire for treatment entangles him in a scheme to gain access to the orbital station Elysium, which has an abundance of magical beds that heal all bad things (and can also turn you Asian, according to the trailers, but that didn’t come up in the plot of the movie). Shenanigans ensue.
Aside: One thing you may have noticed in the trailers about the structure of Elysium is that it doesn’t have a roof. This is uncommon for most space stations, since roofs help keep the air from instantly getting sucked out into the vast empty darkness of the void. The lack of a roof plays a key role in the plot, however, which downgraded some of the tension of the “sneak into a space castle” plotline. This lack of tension is noticeable throughout the movie. If Elysium is this villainous political power, why don’t they have a roof? Why don’t they have guns on their space station to shoot down incoming ships? Darth Vader put guns on his space station, if you recall. Now there’s a villain!
Overall, there was a mismatch of plot and tone. The plot wanted to be a simplistic good-vs-evil smackdown while the tone wanted to be a grittily realistic examination of the perils of the wealthy ignoring the healthcare needs of the poor. The result is an uneven film alternating between gruesome violence and (villainous?) country clubs where the wealthy wear polo shirts and speak that most evil of languages: French.
Overall, I give it one star out of five. The changes needed to improve this movie needed to happen back at the drawing board. Is this Ocean’s 11 In Space? The Bourne Identity in Space? Good Will Hunting In Space? Any of those movies sound more entertaining than Elysium. Don’t worry Matt Damon, my people will call your people.