Elysium (2013) Directed by Neill Blomkamp. With Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga and William Fichtner.
Released to the sound of universal critical acclaim, District 9 showcased what an exciting talent South African film maker, Neill Blomkamp is. It’s understandable then, that levels of expectation were high for Elysium, Blomkamp’s second foray into science fiction.
Los Angeles. The year, 2154. We’re introduced to a dying, overpopulated Earth. Matt Damon stars as Max, a blue-collar guy with distant dreams of one day, leaving home, to live aboard Elysium – a giant, wheel-like space station orbiting the earth’s atmosphere – a place inhabited only by the wealthy and privileged, where disease has been wiped out and mankind co-exists in peace and harmony.
Though the action in District 9 was brilliant, in itself, Blomkamp’s first film had so much more to it. Here, the action is front-loaded, disappointingly overpowering the finer points of the intriguing concept. What’s more, is that the story never attempts to surprise us. The same can be said of the characters. From Alice Braga’s Frey, desperate to smuggle her daughter into Elysium to cure her terminal illness (yawn), to Jodie Foster’s wicked, but muted Delacourt, the screenplay doesn’t allow for much off the ‘beaten track’ of your average, everyday thriller. It’s surprising, especially considering how inventive District 9 was, that Blomkamp should produce something this straight-up.
Matt Damon brings some character, early in proceedings, but it’s not long before he’s shouting, running and gunning, which would have been perfectly okay, had there been a stronger backbone of a film to support it. Everyday life on Elysium itself, is skimmed over, as is any kind of political or social message/commentary the film could have delved into. The louder and more insistent the action becomes, the less invested we gradually feel.
In the end, the films biggest trick, is that it has less up its sleeve than you’d expect. The introduction promises a meaty, thought provoking experience. The final result is no more life enhancing than your average Jason Statham thriller. Frustratingly, it’s easy to see the bare bones of a great idea being missed. 3/5