Synopsis: Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Running Length: 109 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Achieving a minor miracle of a success with 2009’s District 9 (which went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture), it’s interesting that it took director Neill Blomkamp several years to release his follow-up film. Laboring long and hard on a film that, like District 9, is not merely a science fiction stunner but a thinly veiled allegory about something bigger the wait was (mostly) worth it with Elysium.
Now I know this film has some problems. Its storyline is a bit fractured with holes that are wide and frequent but it’s the intense focus on the superior visual design of the movie that earns high marks from this reviewer. Surely housing the best looking effects of any film released in 2013, Elysium sometimes becomes too enamored of its own shine and flash and that’s why it’s class warfare parable doesn’t seem as fully fleshed out as Blomkamp’s apartheid statement hiding under the wiry guts of District 9’s plot.
That being said, you have to hand it to Blomkamp for aspiring to something greater than just delivering straight-forward science fiction with a message that doesn’t seem force-fed or totally obvious. I’ve mentioned in my review of the trailer for Elysium that Matt Damon (Promised Land) and Jodie Foster (Carnage) are notoriously choosy about their films and it isn’t hard to see why both actors eyeballed this project. Though I don’t feel either broke any new ground, it winds up providing solid fodder for Damon to continue his flawed hero character he’s been honing since the Good Will Hunting days and for Foster to fashion another ice queen so brittle she might break if she bumped into a wall. Foster adopts a strange accent that sounds like it was both an afterthought and extensively fixed in post production dubbing…it just felt off and a rare misstep for the actress. The most satisfying performance comes from Sharlto Copley’s (Europa Report) wicked wicked contract killer, a rough and tumble movie villain from a movie era long since obliterated.
Blomkamp’s script has its fair share of twists and interesting commentary about future society until it pares back the bigger ideas for bigger action sequences. These aren’t necessarily unwelcome bits of action but it feels like Blomkamp was a servant to two masters…his own ideology of what he could say with this film and a movie studio that supports the director but also sees the bottom line of a summer action film.
I did enjoy the film more than I thought I would and found it a wonder to look at, if not always to follow along with. I’m hoping that Blomkamp gets back to what made his first US splash such a smash and find a way to achieve more balance with what he’s saying and what he’s showing.