Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, Diego Luna
Written by: Neill Blomkamp
Running time: 109 mins
Release date: 21st August 2013
There was an air of expectation around Elysium. The follow-up film from writer/director Neill Blomkamp, who gave us the surprise hit District 9. So this had a a huge reputation to catch up to. Did it succeed? Almost but not quite. Elysium is an effective sci-fi thriller with a strong cast and some good set pieces. Only problem is that there is an feeling of de ja vu, that we’ve been here before.
The year is 2154. Planet Earth is over populated and a massive slum-land. Ill health and crime is rift. Meanwhile, the rich live on a space station miles above the Earth called Elysium, where they have every home comfort that they can afford, including the ability to cure any illness. Something the people struggling on Earth badly are in need of. Max, an ex convict, works for a high powered corporation run by John Carlyle. He has huge connections with the security for Elysium. To stop illegal immigrants from ever getting into shuttles and landing on the artificial world, head of security, Delacourt, who dreams of becoming in charge of the world, demands that Carlyle download all the security plans into his head and bring them to her.
Meanwhile, Max is accidentally given a fatal dosage of radiation. He has five days to live. Willing to do anything in order to get onto Elysium and get healed, he takes on a mission to download the information in Carlyle’s head. Fitted with a skeleton-style suit of armour, the mission goes wrong when a deadly mercenary called Kruger, hired by Delacourt, is sent in to stop them.
This is an all-action adventure that will keep fans of violence and adrenaline-fuelled excitement happy. Set in two very different worlds, that of pure perfection on Elysium and the other, a crumbling waste ground of poverty. This is the first sense of familiarity. Blomkamp’s former triumph was set in the slums of South Africa. Here it has the same look, dusty, litter-filled areas with buildings and shacks looking, like they will collapse any minute. Immediately you are expecting an alien to pop out of one of the houses.
Elysium, looking like the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey, is rich with colour and expensive looking mansions, a total contract from the world below, yet this too is a world we have been before many times in other cinematic sci-fi. That utopia world which isn’t all perfect is a theme covered by many films and so while you are watching, you kind of feel you know what is going to happen. Luckily, Bromkamp’s action sequences are well handled and keeps the pace moving, although there are some parts when the camera is moving so fast, you lose exactly what is happening.
What the film does manage to do well is get a strong cast to really work well. Matt Damon, all pumped up and shaved head, is a decent action star. We know this from the Bourne movies. Here he is a futuristic Jason Bourne, part caring and understanding, especially for childhood sweetheart and now nurse, Frey, played by Alice Braga, while turning on the action when need to in some pretty brutal fight sequences.
It’s always a joy to see Jodie Foster on screen and here she doesn’t disappoint as the scheming and sly Delacourt. Giving her a different role to what we are use to seeing, she rises to the occasion and you can understand why she is a queen of screen acting. Her pompous air of authority is perfectly suited. Sharlto Copley, who starred in Blomkamp’s previous film and played Murdock in The A-Team is even better here as the vicious and uncompromising mercenary, Kruger. He is an unstoppable killing machine with no scruples and is one of this year’s evilest creations.
This doesn’t exactly set the science fiction world on fire and when compared to District 9, this can come across as a disappointment. It does have enough to make it interesting but it didn’t blow me away, which is a pity because Neill Blomkamp is a talented man and I know he has a masterpiece hidden away somewhere. I can’t wait for him to get it out into the world.