movie film review | chris tookey


© Unknown - all rights reserved
  Elysium Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
5.21 /10
Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley
Full Cast >

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Written by: Neill Blomkamp

Released: 2013
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 109

A clever disappointment.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

Elysium is the new science fiction from Neill Blomkamp, who made the excellent District 9, not only a thinly disguised allegory about apartheid but also a hugely entertaining action movie.

Like many of the best science fiction, Elysium is a dystopic vision of the future that exaggerates unappetising elements of the present.

In 2154, the rich have created the ultimate gated community, a luxurious space station with swimming pools and mansions, an airborne Bel Air. The poor inhabit a crime-ridden, ruined earth. Designer Syd Mead – who also did superb work on Blade Runner, Tron and Aliens - does an excellent job of imagining both words, using Mexico City as the template for a futuristic Los Angeles.

The dichotomy between rich and poor is easily the most memorable aspect of the movie. And the thing that makes us care is Blomkamp’s anger at privilege, coupled with a strong, missionary belief that healthcare should be available to all.

Matt Damon (pictured) plays a factory worker brought up in an orphanage. He’s committed criminal acts and has the electronic tag on his leg to prove it. He’s dreamed of going to Elysium, but when he finds he has only five days to live the imperative to find proper health care becomes a good deal more urgent.

He discovers a further reason to go to Elysium in the form of a little girl with leukaemia, who’s the daughter of Max’s childhood sweetheart (Alice Braga).

The trouble is, Elysium takes a bleak view of earthly visitors. The ruthless secretary of defence (Jodie Foster) thinks nothing of blasting to oblivion any invasion of airspace, and she has at her disposal a sadistic assassin (Sholto Copley) whose approach to immigrants is even more violent than hers.

Elysium has passion, a strong central idea and visual flair. It’s a pity that the characterisation is so thin, and the egalitarian earnestness outbalances the attempts at humour.

Damon fails to endow the hero with much personality, and not even the talented Foster and Copley can create interesting, multi-dimensional villains.

The story suffers most of all from being not enough fun. We’re stuck on earth for what seems like an eternity, and the place is more grim than entertaining. I would have liked more of the humour that pervades Matt Damon’s early scene with an obnoxious robot parole officer, as well as much more detail – and criticism - of the rich people’s lifestyle up there on Elysium.

The concept had a satirical potential that is sacrificed in pursuit of the usual ho-hum ingredients of action blockbusters, fighting and explosions.

Blomkamp has the bright idea of creating a magical machine on Elysium that cures all known human defects and illnesses. I couldn’t help feeling he might have run his own screenplay through it and given us a better picture.

Key to Symbols