Following the sleeper hit District 9, writer-director Niell Blomkamp presents another science fiction thriller/social commentary of epic proportions and intense madness. This is Elysium.
This is the classic tale of the haves and the have-nots, the Star Bellied Sneetches if you will, but set in a futuristic world that is realized quite effectively. Niell Blomkamp proves yet again his prowess at creating a realistic and engaging sic-fi world by making the lives and situations of the characters feel relatable while adding small details that make it clear that this story takes place in a seemingly not so distant future. However, with the core of a familiar story comes the familiar plot devises and narrative turns. Granted, not as predictable as Avatar, with this picture its clear early on which characters will end up where, who the eventual romance will be between, and because we are dealing with a mature and dramatic story of Sneetches, it’s also obvious who will end up making sacrifices of the good of others. Familiarity aside, this flick is still able to create a driving tension that lasts through a large chunk of the film, provide great action sequences when appropriate and not feel too sappy with the obligatory “lovey-dovey” bits.
The casting for Elysium is composed of mostly non-summber blockbuster names. True, there is Matt Damon as Max who is true to his leading man form and he’s joined by Jodie Foster as Delacourt. Sadly no one really turns out a truly stellar/awe-inspriing performance. Of course Damon is a great leading man in an action thriller setting (proving to me once again why he should have been in the running for Captain America) but is unfortunately given little opportunity to really show the ample breadth of his acting chops. He and Jodi are supported and surrounded by several good character actors such as Alice Braga, Wagner Moura, and William Fichtner whom all give solid performances with their sometimes short-lived and somewhat flat characters. Sharlto Copley is worth a very honorable mention, when compared to his leading character in District 9, as he shows great range and a certain flair at being down right dirty. Then there’s the incomparable Jodie Foster, who on paper truly looks as if she doesn’t belong is such a film yet she certainly holds her own. Unfortunately, her role was significantly cut short once she began to hit her stride and really show the complexities of the character. But she was still somehow inexplicably hot; something I don’t think was intentional but still worked.
The visual style of the film followed closely what would be expected from the likes of District 9. Elysium take the “lived in” futuristic quality of science fiction and tuned it down to be almost unnoticed. Rather than show off the cool elements of a futuristic world, they are instead allowed to exist in the background and thus make a more believable environment. There are the occasional glorious uses of special effects, such as with Elysium itself but again, they are always used to enhance the story. Blomkamp’s sophomore effort chimes in armed with a nicely driven yet familiar narrative set against a very well crafted world and decent characters that populate it;
- Elysium “That’ll do pig, That’ll do”