ELYSIUM
Author: Mike Gallien (Follow @MIKEGALLIEN)
August 9, 2013

SYNOPSIS: In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the planet's crime and poverty, and they critically need the state-of-the-art medical care available on Elysium - but some in Elysium will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve their citizens' luxurious lifestyle. The only man with the chance bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission - one that pits him against Elysium's Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces - but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.

Matt Damon’s latest effort, Elysium, is every bit the action-packed sci-fi thriller that I expected it to be. What I didn’t expect was to be one of the victims, being punched in the mouth constantly by a script that has the political subtlety of a Mack truck. The result is a movie filled with great action scenes that is bogged down with a depressing and simplistic socialist, one-world government, no borders, unlimited amnesty message that renders it is almost unwatchable--a sort of “Occupy Wall Street” meets Escape from L.A. mishmash.

Writer/director Neill Blomkamp (District 9), who manages to put some impressive action sequences on the screen in Elysium, must have written the script for this film sitting in an OWS tent for inspiration. He envisions the world in 2154 being one in which the 99 percent are relegated to living life on a filthy, violent Earth patrolled by robot police, having no hope or future. Healthcare is helter-skelter and disease is rampant. Los Angeles, where we meet Damon’s character Max, is a bleak, Spanish-speaking garbage dump that looks worse than any modern-day third world city. It is a dark, disheartening place of filth and squalor in which disease and violence are rampant. Employment, food and clean air and water are almost non-existent and life is barely above the subsistence level.

Above Earth, is a magnificent space station called “Elysium” on which the “1 percent” live. The wealthy industrialists and politicians have escaped the planet to live in absolute luxury on the orbiting utopia. The space station has all of the amenities of wealth imaginable along with healthcare that for all intents and purposes makes its residents immortal. The life-extending technology is available to all “citizens” of Elysium but not to the masses on Earth. As a result, earthlings will do anything to illegally “immigrate” to Elysium to escape the planet’s corruption and pollution and to extend their lives with the state-of-the-art healthcare available on the space station. It is the job of the sinister Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) to protect the space station from any incursions by illegals and she does her job with gusto, even shooting down incoming space shuttles at great cost of innocent lives.

Damon’s Max is a down-and-out ex-con who manages to land a job in a factory that produces the robot cops that patrol the planet. The jobs are hard to get and hard to hold. Worker safety is ignored to increase profit and productivity. The bottom line is the only thing that matters to evil industrialist John Carlyle, well-played by William Fichtner. He shuttles down to Earth daily to try to return the factory to profitability, at any cost. When Max is accidentally exposed to a lethal dose of radiation on the job, he is cast aside to die in five days.

Max is no hero seeking vengeance for the downtrodden. He is motivated by self-interest to save his own life. He turns to his former partner in crime Spider (Wagner Moura) to get him to Elysium to try to heal himself of radiation poisoning. Spider, a futuristic coyote, agrees--for a price. Max has to do a job for Spider in exchange for his “fare” to Elysium. The twists and turns that follow, including the unintentional discovery of a coup involving Foster’s Delacourt, lead Max, along with a long-lost girlfriend Frey (Alice Braga) and her dying daughter, to Elysium for an explosive and dramatic finish.

Damon is solid in the lead role. His Max is troubled and hardly sympathetic, but his upbringing in a Catholic orphanage continually propels him to do the right thing. Foster is disappointing as Delacourt, employing a strange, undefinable accent throughout the stiff portrayal of the evil defense minister. Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) turns in an outstanding performance as Delacourt’s trigger-man Kruger, while Braga’s Frey tugs the heartstrings as a desperate mother trying to find a cure for her dying daughter.

The action in Elysium is worthy of a B grade, but the suffocating political overtones of the script drag the entire film down. - Mike Gallien

OVERALL GRADE: C-


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