Review: Elysium / Cert: 15 / Director: Neill Blomkamp / Screenplay: Neill Blomkamp / Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley / Release Date: August 23rd
In 2009 District 9 catapulted South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp into the Hollywood arena with his innovative and original approach to big budget sci-fi. The setting of the slums of Johannesburg, the politics and personal passion, the original and gritty design and the discovery of Sharlto Copley made this one of the best sci-fi films of the last decade. Elysium shifts gears and location but has much of the same political fury behind it. Matt Damon is in the lead and Copley is cast in a smaller role this time as a sadistic South African enforcer named Krueger. This is a dark and urgent summer blockbuster that delivers strong ideas and imaginative effects with a bubbling undercurrent of US and global political issues.
The architecture of Elysium alone makes it special – it’s set in a world where the class and wealth division is so large they are living on different planets. Matt Damon is Max De Costa, a factory worker and ex-con who’s being hustled by a system designed to make him fail. His daily routine consists of a demeaning stop and search for no other reason than his appearance, a trip to the parole office which plays out like a visit to the job centre with a robot in place of a worker repeating government guidelines and statistics… it’s all very familiar and dehumanising. Resistance appears to be futile and disobedience is rewarded with prison time. But it only takes one to shake up the status quo. A work place accident gives De Costa a life-threatening illness to which the only cure available is on that far off land of Elysium. He turns to the underground, those working around the system, to help him get there and they ask for his help to hack the system in return.
Jodie Foster is the harsh enforcer on Elysium, Secretary Rhodes, drilling out orders like a robot and entirely evil. Speaking of robots, there are some particularly nasty man-made droids too who carry out her orders. Spaceships hurtling over the diseased and polluted vista of Earth, Damon decked out in an extraordinary exo-suit drilled into his skin and the simply spectacular looking Elysium are all expertly crafted. The special effects team have achieved something very special and unique. Add to that the brilliant Copley, who delivers another completely inspiring and scene stealing performance as the man tasked with catching De Costa and you can’t help but get caught up in this adrenalin-pumping race to save humanity.
This is highly entertaining sci-fi designed to make you think about distribution of wealth, overpopulation, a questionable healthcare system and the state of world we live in. Though it may not feel as fresh as District 9, it shows that Blomkamp is unafraid to tackle issues of race, class and immigration policy marking him as the kind of intelligent filmmaker to admire and get passionate about – he’s rebooting the system. Viva la revolución!
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10