by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
In the 1980s, we had movies like Back to the Future giving us a glimpse of what the 2000s would be like. Here we are and it’s nothing of the sort. But still we have films released portraying a version of the future that is yet to come. How accurate will these films be? If it’s anything like director Neil Blomkamp’s latest film, Elysium, it won’t be the greatest of conditions for those living on Earth. Elysium looks at the future, the evolution of class struggle and the lengths people will go to in order to survive.
It is the middle of the 22nd Century, and the Earth has been abandoned by its wealthiest citizens who now live outside of Earth on a manmade station known as Elysium. There, citizens enjoy the finest things in life with the most up to date technology to the point that disease and viruses are able to be eradicated from a human in moments. Down on Earth, however, those who cannot afford to live on Elysium are tucked away into overly populated cities which are but shadows of what they used to be.
Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) is a citizen living on Earth in Los Angeles. He’s a former car thief who spent time in prison and now is on the straight and narrow, working a factory job and trying to avoid temptation. His best friend Julio (Diego Luna), who once worked with Max boosting cars, is still around, yet the good part of Max’ past returns is Frey (Alice Braga), a childhood friend who is now a nurse. Frey happens to have a daughter with Leukemia and needs to get to Elysium in order to have her daughter saved. Max, after an accident occurs, must also get there to save himself. But getting to Elysium is easier said than done with Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) monitoring those coming in from Earth and her undercover operative / assassin, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), taking care of things on the wealth-abandoned planet.
Elysium has been built up in the trailers to be a futuristic action film, and while this may be true, the action plays a secondary role to the drama that is the life of Max and those who live on Earth. Some pundits have labeled this film as “liberal propaganda,” but is it really? I would disagree. Yes, the film has its class distinction finely detailed, but this isn’t new. The difference in classes has been detailed in many films over the years, so we aren’t breaking any ground here. Rather we see the view from one particular individual on Earth through his eyes, while those living on Elysium, we rarely get a true glimpse into theirs. As for the action alluded to earlier, it’s fairly generic for the most part with one or two “good” action sequences. Again, this film is previewed as an action film but it’s much more.
In terms of acting, the performances, for the most part, are thoroughly enjoyable. It’s always a treat to watch Matt Damon embody something new. With the trailers, one may think of Damon’s character as a “badass” with a superior fighting background, but this is far from the case. And once Max is in need of help, we see a great character change as he struggles for survival, as any human would do. On the other side is Sharlto Copley as the villain. With the film almost setting Max up with a “superhero” type back story, Kruger is the supervillain, and super he is. He brings to mind the darkness from that of 300, with the intensity of Gerard Butler as King Leonidas. You don’t see many bad guys who are up to this level and Sharlto fleshes him out perfectly. Rounding out the “main” cast is Jodie Foster and Alice Braga, who each perform their roles adequately.
Elysium arrives in theaters at the end of the summer blockbuster season, which should help its numbers. The film is paced well and has all of the elements of a great film. The one downside, and this is my opinion, is that this film felt like something that could have been more of a miniseries. And that is not meant as a disrespect, but rather that there is a plethora of good material here, so much more could have been developed had it had the time to do so. What we are given is a film running over two hours in length which builds up to a crescendo and ends with a flourish. A great job but everyone involved with the film. Hopefully the future of man is as good as this film was.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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