Review by Jeff Ames
Just when you thought summer was over, along comes Neill Blomkamp’s stupendous sci-fi actioner “Elysium.” Don’t worry, I won’t go all geeky and call it the best film of the year, and caution those expecting something akin to the Second Coming to temper their expectations. But I’m not afraid to proclaim it the most electrifying flick of the summer, and perhaps the most satisfying blockbuster made by anyone not named Christopher Nolan.
Starring Matt Damon, “Elysium” more or less follows the same beats as Blomkamp’s debut film “District 9,” focusing on culture clashes, politics and everything in-between (particularly the grimy, overpopulated lower class population). Damon plays Max, an ex-convict roaming the now rotting wasteland that is Earth. It seems the rich folk tired of rolling around in garbage and opted for a new start, gathered their resources and high tailed it to an orbiting semi-planet called Elysium, where disease is practically forbidden, death doesn’t exist, and lower class citizens like Max are cast out like the plague.
“Don’t even breathe on me,” one Elysium member tells a lower class denizen.
A horrific accident leaves Max with mere days to live. He knows in order to survive he’ll need a ticket to that Utopia in the sky. He goes to see his previous employer, a smuggler known as Spider (Wagner Moura), who straps him in a power suit and sends him off to steal info from local billionaire slimeball John Carlyle (William Fichtner).
Turns out, Carlyle’s intel – accessed via USB port attached to his brain – goes deeper than Max expects, revealing a plot to reboot Elysium staged by a bitter government minister (Jodie Foster).
Confused? “Elysium” doesn’t care. Blomkamp (who wrote and directed) keeps the film moving at a crackling pace, pausing only for a few brief emotional beats. The rest is non-stop action in the vein of those gritty, gory 80s action flicks that catered to no man, child or woman; and milked every ounce of their R rating.
Wait till you get a load of Kruger, a wacko assassin played with feverish intensity by Sharlto Copley. Utilizing a hefty assortment of kick *** hardware, Kruger gets off torturing and murdering victims, pausing only to deliver the occasional foul-mouthed quip – when he’s not getting his face reattached, that is.
Damon plays it straight, turning in an emotional performance that hearkens back to his Bourne days. He hasn’t been this good, or in this good a movie in quite a while. “I’m not gonna die today,” he says. We believe him, even when his actions hinder the lives of long time friend/love interest Frey (Alice Braga) and her sickly daughter.
The movie’s not perfect. Blomkamp bites off a little more than he can chew, churning up unique questions about social classes and politics that he’s not prepared to fully explore.
And Foster bogs the movie down with an irritating performance, using a thick accent that even she, an Oscar-winning actress, can’t properly perform. (It doesn’t help that most of her lines suffer from bad re-dubbing.)
But who cares? The production is enormous, the special FX fantastic, and the action jaw-dropping.
“Elysium” is brash, bold, and wildly entertaining popcorn fodder.