Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura
RunTime: 1 hr 49 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Official Website: http://www.itsbetterupthere.com
Opening Day: 15 August 2013
Synopsis: In the year 2159, 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 Earth. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the planet’s crime and poverty, and they critically need the state-of-the-art medical care available on Elysium – but some in Elysium will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve their citizens’ luxurious lifestyle. 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.
In ancient Greek mythology, Elysium refers to a place where mortals related to, or who were favoured by, the gods were allowed to enter in afterlife, where they would never grow old and lived there doing whatever they please. Following this idea of a paradise, the Elysium in the movie is a manmade satellite containing the wealthy upper class, where they are free of illness, and lead generally pleasure-seeking lifestyles on the station. In contrast, the working class is forced to toll on the overpopulated and polluted Earth. The government plays god in this futuristic dystopia, as they decide who is qualified to be on Elysium. Within the government, the Secretary of Defence, Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster), spearheads the harsh treatment of illegal immigrants from Earth to protect Elysium from running out of resources.
"Elysium" is director Neill Blomkamp’s second full-length feature film, after "District 9", which was a critical and commercial success. There are several similarities between both films, such as the long overhead shots showcasing a birds’ eye view of the terrain, the theme of suppression and the character development of the protagonist.
That said, those expecting "Elysium" to be entirely similar to "District 9" would be disappointed. The use of shaky cam, fast cuts and multiple scene changes worked in "District 9", capturing the attention of the audience. "Elysium" tries to use a similar method to engage the audience, with the shaky cam to portray a first-hand experience, while presenting the fight scenes through rapid cuts from different angles. Furthermore, while "District 9" took a long time to build up to the climax, ‘Elysium’ sped things up with faster and more frequent fight sequences. Despite the fast pace, the audience was left feeling more disorientated than engaged. The large amount of time dedicated to the fight sequences also led to a hurried character development of Max Da Costa (Matt Damon).
As expected, the character with the most development is Max. Max Da Costa is a factory worker and an ex-convict who seems to be perpetually under parole. An accidental radiation exposure leaves Max with five days to live, and he becomes hell-bent on getting to Elysium for a cure. This desperation led to Max ignoring Spider (Wagner Moura) and Frey’s (Alice Braga) attempts to convince Max to put others in front of him. It was only until upon reaching Elysium when Max had a sudden change of heart, sacrificing himself for the greater good. However, this change comes off as being abrupt and it seemed as if the director was running out of time.
Of the other characters in the film, Copley stands out in his role as the main villain – a South African mercenary, criminal and Delacourt’s personal hitman, Agent M. C. Kruger. Kruger is vile, capricious and lecherous, and Copley’s portrayal of the role successfully leads the audience to feel repulsed yet fearful of the character.
There is an overwhelming amount of violence and gore throughout the movie, and the director seemed to take every opportunity to insert blood and body parts that were blown apart. The blood and gore confronts the audience and gives a first-hand view of how violence tears apart, literally and figuratively, the society and its people.
Overall, "Elysium" presents a possible, if unoriginal, future dystopia. The large amount of violence and gore, however, forms the bulk of the movie and distracts the audience from the main message – a warning against the continued destruction of our planet.
(Fans of "District 9" will find "Elysium" similar but with an added emphasis on fast-paced action sequences and gore)
Review by Goh Yan Hui