Max (Matt Damon) has dreamed of flying to Elysium since he was able to see it floating high above Earth. The year is 2154, and the world is trashed and overpopulated. The richest inhabitants of Earth have fled and constructed a new habitat in space. Elysium is home to the richest of the rich. Any sickness can be healed immediately, and everyone lives in splendor. Working at his factory job one day, Max is involved in a mishap blasting him with enough radiation to kill him in 5 days. Knowing Elysium can cure him, he gets the help of tech genius/resistance leader Spider, who gets a powerful exoskeleton wired to his body. With it, he seeks to take down the vicious sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) and his handler, Elysium Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster).
Also MATT DAMON
Neill Blomkamp put himself on the map with District 9, a great science fiction film anchored by a powerful social commentary about segregation. It was also realistic, gritty, and extremely visceral. For Elysium, the underlying message involves the schism between the rich and the poor, but it’s a bit more basic and isn’t pushed as hard in favor of a more Hollywood-friendly action movie. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the film, and it’s still got that unmistakable Blomkamp feel. Yes, that means several instances of body parts getting splattered.
The second half of Elysium is incredibly badass. This is when Max gets his suit and Kruger steps into the picture. It culminates in a race to Elysium itself and a final battle between the men, both of whom are wearing their superpowered exoskeletons. Blomkamp is a tremendously talented director that brings a ferocious energy to the action sequences and makes them incredibly thrilling.
Blomkamp’s skill also applies to the rest of the film, as he utilizes a dialed-back version of the documentary camera for some of the Earth sequences, and a much cleaner, smoother aesthetic on Elysium. It’s a small touch that gave the movie a lot of character. Additionally, the extremely polished CGI effects blend seamlessly with the practical effects, and apart from the obvious ones (GEE IDK IF THEY REALLY BUILT A SPACE STATION OR IF IT’S CGI) it can be difficult to decipher what was made with real materials, and what was made with computers. It’s all unobtrusive and attractive.
With a bigger budget, Blomkamp really lets his imagination run wild. The soaring shots of Elysium—a Halo-inspired space station housing a utopia—look beautiful, and the Earth below looks, at the surface, grungy and nasty. The integration of software and mechanical augmentations with organic brain tissue, giving some characters to download information straight into their brains, was a sweet touch. The action hits hard and generally looks coherent.
Just because Elysium has more action than District 9 had doesn’t mean Blomkamp doesn’t have room for character development. While Delacourt and several other of the Elysium higher-ups are pretty standard rich-ass villains, Kruger is a full-on psychopath with hints of humanity played brilliantly by Copley. Max starts as a self-involved criminal who only does things for himself, but by the end of the movie finds himself supporting the cause of the entire Earth. Matt Damon dissolves into the character so well it’s easy to forget that it’s actually him playing the character.
Elysium is a wonderfully accomplished sci-fi thriller that reestablished Blomkamp as one of the premier minds of the genre. It tells a story without immersing itself too much in technology, but still manages to be flashy. It’s a powerhouse of intense action and genuine emotional moments, and, most importantly, an extremely intelligent and engaging science fiction thriller with a semi-Christ-like figure at its core. This is damn good cinema.
Do a Shot: each time someone explodes.
Take a Drink: each time someone says “Elysium.”
Take a Drink: every time a bass note rattles your brain (CRANK DAT SHIT AMC)
Do a Shot: every time Max sustains a severe injury.