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  Elysium I Do Want What I Have Not GotBuy this film here.
Year: 2013
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir, Adrian Holmes, Jared Keeso, Carly Pope, Ona Grauer
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 2054, and Planet Earth has never been in such a rough state, with overpopulation, crime, poverty and disease rampant. But for the citizens of Elysium, life could not be better, mainly because they are far, far away from such issues in a space station orbiting the globe: the elite, those with the money and influence to keep them away from the unpleasant reality of the larger majority of the human race. They exist in the lap of luxury, not least because they have a special process, encapsulated in a machine every home has, which will eliminate illness and injury in a matter of seconds, leaving them free of the problems afflicting those down on Earth...

Writer and director Neill Blomkamp was never one to shy away from introducing social themes into his science fiction, as had been seen before in District 9, the film he made prior to this one, and in many ways Elysium was continuing that trend, practically beating the audience over the head with his concerns about the massive injustice between the haves and have-nots. You could regard this as one extended metaphor, a plea to those who can afford to help their fellow man (or woman) to do so, but not everyone was prepared to take such naked politicising of a traditional dystopian fantasy as it was intended, and the general reaction seemed to be, never mind all that, Neill, show us some exploding spaceships.

Yet if you were prepared to engage with the director's ideas, then you would find something worthwhile, at least before the conventions of action movies were brought into play. If science fiction was the arena for promoting grand notions and commentary on the world as the author saw it, then why not attend to that, and on a platform that would be seen by a great many people, the Hollywood blockbuster, packed with special effects and with a big star or two for name above the title recognition? For that reason, the scenes in the opening half hour where Blomkamp delineated the rules of the world he was working in and the parallels and exaggerations it was connected to our society in the early 21st Century were likely the strongest in the whole work.

It's just that once that business was established and he had your attention, whether you agreed with his point of view or not, no matter how busy the film became in ensuring it all tied up thematically and allegorically, you did yearn for the more simple allusions it was making before Matt Damon had to spend the remaining hour or so hitting people. He played Max, a former petty criminal in a scenario which pretty much forces citizens to break the law, who is now trying to go straight: he has a job, which makes him the object of ridicule among those in his community, mostly because that occupation sees him treated worse than the most basic robot. Speaking of which, there are androids employed to keep order as cops and officials, allowing the authorities to leave the dirty work to them as well as showing the inhuman and unyielding face of the state.

Max is puttering through this when he is assaulted by an over-zealous cop droid, an act which sends him into conflict with the powers that be up in the space station - eventually. He takes an awful long time to get there, and in the meantime he must negotiate the cityscape of the slums, much as Sharlto Copley (who appears here as a baddie) did in District 9; making matters worse is that Max has radiation poisoning after an accident at work, and now has five days to find a cure. Hmm, how about one of those health machines in Elysium? Well, obviously, yet to reach there he must jump through a succession of hoops held by the gangsters who thrive in Los Angeles and the uncaring head honchos in orbit, led by an icy and multi-accented Jodie Foster. As if that were not enough, Max's childhood sweetheart (Alice Braga), who patches him up after battling Copley, has a daughter suffering leukemia - can he save the moppet too? What do you think? If it ends much as you'd expect, at least there was food for thought here should you want it, if heavy on the stomach. Music by Ryan Amon.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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