“Elysium” is the second film from director “Neill Blomkamp”, whose debut film was the very popular “District 9” back in 2009. That movie went on to be a big critical and box office success. It ended up being nominated for best picture after the Academy decided to start nominated ten movies instead of five. My personal opinion was that I liked it but I didn’t love it. Watching it again four years later I still stand by what I said but I have gained a greater appreciation for that film.
“Elysium” shows me that as a writer and director, Blomkamp as grown. Some how the characters and the story are more vivid and engaging. There is a lot of action and violence but it almost feels sort of shoe horned in to a movie where the director is more intrigued by the world he has created.
The story is set on Earth in the future. Years from now the planet becomes over populated and ravaged by disease. Eventually the rich and powerful build a massive space station and move there, leaving everyone else behind. This orbiting craft is one of those unique and amazing set pieces that come along every once in a while in a movie. It is referred to as a habitat by it’s inhabitants. It is circular in shape and contains it’s own atmosphere. It can be seen from the surface of Earth by inhabitants that dream of one day living there.
Also on Elysium are medical instruments that can cure every known disease and ailment known to man. There is a faction on Earth who make it their mission to try to transport the sick there illegally so they can access these machines and save themselves. When their ships approach Elysium they are ruthless shot down by their defences.
Making as much of a living as he can on Earth is Max, played by Matt Damon. Max is on parole and working in a robot factory. One day he is caught in a machine that exposes him to mass amounts of radiation. When he is told he has five days before his organs shut down, he decides to attempt a trip to Elysium to find a cure.
Working against him is a ruthless agent of Elysium named Kruger, played by Shartlo Copley. He is a ruthless killer that delights in causing brutal pain and bodily harm. This is a stark difference from his role in “District 9”.
Jodie Foster plays a politician on Elysium who runs Kruger and schemes to become the president of this orbiting colony. She wants to run it like a dictatorship and make sure that nobody of a lower class can ever land there again.
Once the story is laid out and the pieces are in place we then follow Max in his journey to reach Elysium. This involves a few violent showdowns with Kruger as he attempts to stop him. But in order to gain access to a ship bound for Elysium, he must pull off a heist that involves stealing information from the mind of one of the space stations CEO’s. The data he receives puts the fate of the world in his hands and ups the stakes incredibly.
Everything comes together on Elysium during a violence confrontation. What is intriguing to me is how the action scenes, which are pretty thrilling despite the over use of shaky camera work, don’t really seem all that necessary. It is almost like Blomkamp was more interested in creating a world that is falling apart and comparing it to an almost heaven like environment that people dream of living on. The visuals are simply stunning but they are all in service of an absorbing story.
There seems to be a shift in the sci-fi genre in the last few years. Great movies like “Looper”, “Oblivion” and now “Elysium” seem to be finally focusing on creating original stories as opposed to exploiting franchises. I couldn’t be more pleased by this.