Finally, a summer movie that lives up to expectations! This summer has been such a depressing series of half-successes and outright failures that I was beginning to think we weren’t going to get a single one that knew how to stick the landing. Now You See Me and Despicable Me 2 were both tons of fun, but they didn’t have much substance past the fun. Elysium delivers both.
Quick plot synopsis: In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined planet. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the crime and poverty that is now rampant throughout the land. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.
Elysium is Neil Blomkamp‘s first film since his Oscar-nominated debut in District 9. This film will, inevitably, be compared to District 9 and that’s not entirely fair. District 9 was an apartheid/racism allegory disguised as a science fiction film. Elysium is a summer blockbuster with clear relevance to issues of class. Blomkamp shows himself to be no fluke with a tightly paced, gripping sophomore effort. His take on science fiction is gritty, at times brutal and realistic (odd descriptor but still apt within the confines of the plot). With more money to spend than on District 9, Blomkamp makes every shot spectacular. I wish I’d seen this in IMAX because it’s certainly warranted.
It’s good to see Matt Damon in an action film after a break following the Bourne movies. He’s an unlikely, but extremely charismatic action star in addition to his dramatic talents. Also very nice to see Jodie Foster back on the screen, but her role is much smaller than the marketing would have you believe. Much more prominent is her bounty hunter played by Sharlto Copley, one of the most underrated actors working. If you watch him in District 9, The A-Team and then this, it’s extremely hard to believe it’s the same man.
Without ruining some turns in the plot, the script has a weight that most blockbusters lack or have tried desperately to force this summer. The action is fantastic, the fights brilliant and the cast stellar. It IS better up there. Get out and see Elysium. New top picture of the year!
PS – When will humanity get that robot-building is never a good idea?
PPS – It’s nice to see LA still looks the same in 2154.