Copyright © 2013 by TriStar Pictures
Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), an orphan who lives on over populated and polluted Earth desires to one day be privileged enough to reside on a luxurious space station known as Elysium where the citizens there live in comfort, safety and disease free. Now, a parolee from his former days as a car thief, he works at an assembly line in one of the robotics factories of Armadyne Corp., the company that supplies all of Elysium’s basic needs. After suffering from a high dose of radiation during a work related accident, he is unfairly dismissed by the manufacturer’s CEO, John Carlyle (William Fichtner). With only five days left to live, he concocts a plan with notorious smuggler and hacker Spider (Wagner Moura) in exchange for a trip up to Elysium to cure himself with the medical devices called the Med-Bays.
After the huge critical and commercial success of his sleeper hit, District 9, expectations for Neill Blomkamp’s next venture has gone through the roof. With a bigger budget allocated (still average by today’s standards), the finished product is slicker and grander in scope. Attracting two Oscar winners to round up the cast’s eclectic mix help in conveying this politically charged sci-fi actioner. It is interesting to note that Damon was not Blomkamp’s first or even second choice to play the male lead (rapper Eminem had been offered previously but could not agree to the filming location) as I thought he slipped into his role so effortlessly. To look the part, he even employed an intensive workout regimen of four hours a day.
Already a veteran for appearing in some of the best action-oriented movies of our time i.e. ‘The Bourne’ trilogy, ‘The Departed and ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Damon’s cool and charming disposition is in fine form here, bringing an immediate likeability to his wise-cracking screen persona reminiscent of his character in ‘The Adjustment Bureau’. He transitions from being your regular Joe to full fledge messiah with believability via his subtle nuances. The sacrifice he makes at the end is heartbreaking but necessary. While Damon downplays his character’s significance, his co-stars, on the other hand, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley relish every minute of their time playing menacing and deranged with such aplomb.
Foster, still luminous as ever shines in her slightly under developed role as Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt. Her decisions are questionable and extreme methods do not go well with the members of the Cabinet. It could be a deliberate attempt to simply mold her as a heartless and conniving baddie but if more exposition had been included, she would have even made Meryl Streep’s steely Margaret Thatcher pale in comparison to her ruthlessness. In Copley’s case, he continues to surprise with his choice selection. He has progressed from being the accidental hero to unpredictable teammate and now, an all-out psychopath. Being the show’s scene stealer, he is not constrained to restrain but is still able to retain a certain degree of normalcy.
The underlying theme in Blomkamp’s sophomore effort is still very much similar to his first. His fascination with human rights and equality are the driving forces to the film’s central plot. Because of the differences in stature, the wealthy get to live forever and the poor unfortunately do not get to reap the same benefits. With such realism permeating in the movie’s every pore, it is no wonder that Blomkamp still opted to go for hand-held shots in the action sequences. While it is an artistic choice, I do hope he will experiment with other styles in future. Aside from some minor nitpicking, ‘Elysium’ is yet another intelligent piece of filmmaking. It may not scale the heights of his other masterpiece but its topicality will provide with lots of food for thought long after the credits have rolled.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout