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2013 | 109 min | R | 2.39:1



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

User reviews

5 user reviews

Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 09 August, 2013
 21 August, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects


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Overview Preview Cast & crew Screenshots User reviews News Forum



Screenshots from Elysium Blu-ray

Elysium Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 8, 2013

Four years ago, Neill Blomkamp made a splash with his directorial debut, the alien immigration saga “District 9.” A sleeper smash that created a career for the helmer and star Sharlto Copley, the picture was pure overkill, but offered an enticing glimpse of Blomkamp’s undeniably fertile creative vision. “Elysium” is his big-budget follow-up, allowing the moviemaker a chance to romp around an immense sci-fi sandbox, with major stars to conduct and immaculate CGI machinery to manipulate. Even though the features are identical in many ways, “Elysium” is more polished than “District 9,” filling out Blomkamp’s visual potential in full. However, old, ugly habits remain, keeping his latest work frustrating to watch as it avoids greatness to monkey around with numerous noisemakers.

At the end of the 21st century, Earth has been wrecked by environmental catastrophe and overpopulation, forcing the rich and powerful to evacuate the planet to live on a space station called Elysium. There’s no illness or aging on this man-made paradise, with control of its borders assigned to steely defense secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who aims to steal the presidency of Elysium with a special computer virus. In Los Angeles, reformed criminal Max (Matt Damon) is trying to remain calm in the face of Earth’s abusive robot force, watching his temper as he commutes to a dangerous factory job assembling his metal oppressors. Exposed to a deadly dose of radiation, Max is given five days to live, triggering longstanding plans to infiltrate Elysium and heal himself in one of their many miracle medical bays. Coming to crime lord Spider (Wagner Moura) to acquire passage to the station, Max is tasked with retrieving a billion-dollar download from the mind of executive Carlyle (William Fichtner), fitted for a special tech suit that gifts him super-strength and a computerized brain. Now with sensitive information locked inside his head, Max is targeted by Delacourt, who sends her top operative Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to retrieve the outlaw, using his childhood love Frey (Alice Braga) and her infirmed daughter as incentive to surrender.

Blomkamp continues his theme of immigration with “Elysium,” moving on to a depiction of literal class warfare, where the Earth’s wealthiest have abandoned their home for an artificial Shangri-la that offers total comfort and immortality to those able to afford its entry fee. In Los Angeles (the rest of the world’s woes are not identified), buildings are in ruin, trash heaps are inescapable, the air is barely breathable, and the only work available for those who haven’t elected a life of crime is found in service of the Elysium elite, who treat Earthlings as disposable. This is not a subtle picture, displaying Earthlings as largely Latino, while Elysium residents are primarily Aryan types, even staging a border crossing as Spider’s shuttles, filled with desperate souls, attempt to storm the space station, scattering once the ship had landed, requiring Homeland Security forces to clean up the mess. Blomkamp scripts with a Sharpie, but his points on inequality and the abuse of power are made. Not tactfully, but cleanly, removing any possible trace of complexity out of the villains, with Foster reduced to playing a mustache-twirling baddie, though she’s bizarrely (and poorly) looped throughout the film, hinting at a pungent accent choice that was reconsidered late in post-production.

It’s not just the message of “Elysium” that’s handled with obviousness, but the characterizations as well, bestowing Max with a backstory that finds him a rambunctious boy determined to visit Elysium one day, with his troublemaking spirit only cooled by Frey’s kindness. He’s a hothead attempting to build a future for himself, refusing a life of crime to become respectable, only returning to old habits when his employer demands potential bodily sacrifice to maintain the efficiency of the factory line. That Damon’s performance manages to humanize Max to a certain degree is a blessing (it’s the best performance in the effort), keeping the character slightly dim-witted and trusting while engaged in all sorts of survival situations, refusing the bland hero routine. However, it’s easy for Damon to register with grace when the rest of the actors are orbiting alongside Elysium, delivering obscenely chewy work that attaches an anchor to the production. Copley is the worst offender, making Kruger into a bellowing monster -- a one-note video game boss without a hint of restraint, burying “Elysium” with his displays of hammy, unnatural acting.

Excessive force is now officially a Blomkamp trait, finding “Elysium” even more aggressive with broad acts of violence and visual disorder than “District 9.” Employing shaky-cam (combat sequences are a blur) and hectic editing, the production seeks to conjure a pitch of chaos that mirrors the insanity of a jacked-up Max battling his way to the space station. The idea is to summon madness, but the execution is noisy, clogging the flow of intensity. The director turns action into punishment, beating the viewer into submission as “Elysium” rolls out its display of exploding bodies and faces, vomiting, stabbings and slashings, surgical experimentation, and grenade tosses. It’s a graphic film, and not one that enjoys a sense of symphonic management, observing Blomkamp elect the blend-and-splash routing to inflate “Elysium” to event movie status.

“Elysium” has its faults, but visual effects are not one of them. It’s a breathtakingly designed feature, taking note of space station enormity and remoteness, robot enforcers and parole officers (one of the best scenes finds Max ticked off with his mechanical administrator), ships, weaponry, and the decimation of Earth. It’s an arresting movie that’s always interesting to study, with textures and details so crisply defined, it’s easy to buy into Blomkamp’s elaborate dystopian fantasy. Despite its flatly defined political aspirations and tonal severity, “Elysium” is always fascinating to watch, perhaps more effective as a silent reminder of economic disparity and discrimination than bulky summer escapism trying to smash its audience in the face with a hammer.

Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Alice Braga, Sharlto Copley, Wagner Moura
Director: Neill Blomkamp

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