Elysium (2013) Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley. IMDB says: “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.”
Elysium presents a little of a conundrum for me, it has all the aspects of a great film but somehow slightly misses the mark. The premise is one that I can really get behind; in the distant future, mankind has made such a mess of the planet that the wealthy collectively pool their resources and build Elysium, a floating paradise away from the undesirables of earth. One of the particularly appealing things about Elysium is that people don’t become sick due to med-chambers that every home seems is furnished with. Here comes Max, a charming guy from the wrong side of the tracks, played by Matt Damon, who becomes desperate for the healthcare Elysium provides. He then does everything in his power to get there.
Much like Neill Blomkamp’s other work, District 9, Elysium draws many parallels between the movie and social issues. This film tackles healthcare, immigration, and the economy all within 2 hours. One of the accomplishments of Elysium is that it handles all these topics without feeling too preachy or bogged down by them. The movie definitely has an axe to grind, but luckily for the audience it doesn’t get in the way of the story.
Visually the movie is gorgeous, making Los Angeles in 2154 look like a war-torn locale we’d see on CNN. Quite a bit of CGI is used in the film, but much like in District 9 it feels organic and seems to ‘blend’ well into the live action. While on the subject of action, Elysium has its fair share. The fight scenes choreographed well and felt very real. I was happy to see that Blomkamp borrowed a fun little camera trick from The Matrix. In a couple of the fight sequences Blomkamp uses the 360 camera shot similar to Trinity’s iconic crane kick, it was a nice touch and wasn’t overdone.
Acting was very solid all around. Matt Damon was charming as the reluctant protagonist, the role didn’t pose any particular challenge to Damon or require him to stretch his skills as an actor, but he did it well. He made his character likable by the audience and you find yourself rooting for him. Jodie Foster performance as Elysium’s Secretary of Defense was serviceable; she didn’t really add anything to the role and in my opinion, they could have found someone else, paid them less money, and probably get the same (if not better) performance. Jodie is my girl, but her presence in this movie didn’t elevate it. A standout for me was Sharlto Copley as Kruger, one of Foster’s secret agents stationed on earth. Copley hasn’t done a lot on the big screen, but being a part to two big films within the last few years (District 9 and The A-Team) has left audiences with feeling that Copley can deliver quirky, charming performances. However in Elysium, Copley plays a convincing badass, both sinister and mentally unhinged.
And this is my problem with Elysium, when you look at all the parts individually it’s not a bad movie. It has a good premise, great action/effects, and decent acting. But somehow greatness gets lost when you put all the parts together. Elysium isn’t a terrible movie but it’s far from gripping, and not very memorable if I’m honest. Blomkamp tries to capture the magic of District 9 but Elysium proves to be an unfit vessel. If you’re looking for a late-summer blockbuster you may want to bypass this, but if you’re looking for a something to do on a rainy afternoon, this will be right up your alley.