Directed by Neill Blomkamp
From Blomkamp, writer/director of 2009’s Best Picture nominee “District 9,” comes a similarly tragic vision of near-future Earth. In “Elysium,” Blomkamp writes a beautiful and heartbreaking story, without wimping out on any of the action.
This time it’s 2154, and Earth is an overpopulated mess. Years ago, all of Earth’s wealthiest citizens moved to a floating spaceship in the stars called Elysium, while the lower classes continue to live in squalor and follow the commands of robotic law enforcement unafraid to beat you if you step out of line. Max (a buff, bald Matt Damon) has lived his whole life on Earth, always dreaming, like everyone else, of affording the very pricey ticket to Elysium. When, in adulthood, the opportunity presents itself to Max, he’ll do everything in his power to overthrow the oppressive Elysium government. Too bad Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to keep the rich rich and the poor dying.
Matt Damon is an action god, so no one is surprised when he handles his fight scenes exceptionally well. We’re rooting for him the whole time. And where most movies of this sort would feel the need to give their protagonist a romantic love interest, Max needs no such relationship. Sure, there’s the childhood friend (Alice Braga), now with a dying child of her own. He’ll try to help them out, but not because he wants to kiss her. Foster is disappointing, unable to convince me of her evil. Despite her heartless acts, I don’t buy it. Sharlto Copley, the tragic hero of “District 9,” is excellent in his role-reversal, as the antagonistic special operative assigned to stop Max and keep law and order on Earth.
As of Dec. 5, “Elysium” is on the shortlist of 10 possible nominees for the Academy Award for Visual Effects. It deserves it, for its nearly flawless ability to create both a completely different Earth and a brand new world floating above it. Everything, from the guns to the aircrafts to the robotic policemen, looks spectacular. Think “District 9,” 2010 Visual Effects nominee, and then think better.
A pulsing score heightens the tension of this already exciting action blockbuster. The ending, if perhaps predictable, is ultimately satisfying regardless of whether or not you expected it to happen. Blomkamp gives us sci-fi with story, not just the irrelevant effects of something like “After Earth.” It replaces some of its action with suspense, leaving you to anticipate the action to come. It works.