Monday, August 19, 2013

Elysium - 3 1/2 stars

Elysium was written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, who also wrote and directed District 9 a few years ago.  Set in 2154, the movie is a pretty good allegory for the division between the haves and the have nots.  The Earth has been basically ruined by overpopulation, war, pollution, all that stuff.  Most of the population lives on Earth, but the 1% live on Elysium, a colony orbiting the Earth.  Elysium is basically paradise.  It's peaceful with fancy houses and perfectly manicured lawns, and the best part is the free health care.  Every home has a medical bed that can scan you, instantly detect any diseases or other problems, and quickly heal you.  On Earth, the 99% are left with hospitals which apparently haven't made any advancements since 2013.

Matt Damon stars as Max, a regular guy working a crappy job.  Earth has also become a police state with robotic patrol officers who will search you if you have any kind of criminal history, and they'll beat you if you try to crack jokes.  We get the impression that even horrible jobs are hard to come by.  When there is a malfunction at Max's job, he is told he better get in that room and fix it, or clean out his locker.  The room is some kind of radiation room, and when he fixes the malfunction, he gets a lethal dose of radiation.  He now has 5 days to live, so he needs to get to Elysium to be healed. 

Everyone on Earth dreams of making enough money to go to Elysium.  Just like people try to sneak into America and have to evade border guards, there is a scene where a bunch of people try to sneak into Elysium aboard spacecraft.  The government minister of Elysium, Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) has no problem destroying the ships rather than capturing them, even though that means killing women and children.  She represents that ultra right wing American mentality that thinks all illegal immigrants are criminals and should be shot on the spot. 

The movie looked and felt a lot like District 9.  Instead of the slums of Johannesburg, we get the slums of LA.  We never see any other locations on Earth, but we assume that every city is pretty much the same as LA.  I really like the way Blomkamp doesn't overuse the CGI.  Everything looks practical and the effects never took me out of the movie.  I also think for the most part the depictions of violence were realistic.  There are some pretty gruesome scenes of violence, including one scene where someone's face is mostly blown away by a grenade. 

Sharlto Copley, star of District 9, plays Kruger, a ruthless mercenary who works for Delacourt, and for most of the movie he's just hunting Max.  There is also a semi-love interest for Max.  Alice Braga plays Frey, his childhood sweetheart.  She has a daughter, and her presence in the movie is mostly to give Max a couple of characters to try to protect.

I really enjoyed Elysium.  I'll take a movie like this over most of the overblown, overdone, over-CGI'ed movies we've gotten this summer. 

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