Nearly 150 years into the future, Earth has been overpopulated and has suffered from poverty and crime. Seeking refuge, the wealthy relocated themselves into their own safe haven in Space. This new habitat, named Elysium, has the cleanest air and a revolutionary machine that can heal any disease, illness or harm that might come across the rich population, a machine that cannot work without being powered by Elysium's main core. Everyone on Earth wants a ticket to Elysium, especially factory worker Max de Costa (Matt Damon), who only has five days to live after a massive exposure to radiation. Weak and without the funds to travel to Elysium, Max enlists the help of local hacker Spider (Wagner Moura), who fits Max into an exoskeleton suit to make him strong enough to fight his way onto the heavily guarded safe haven. But with the maniacal Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster) and the ruthless agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) standing between him and his health, Max has more on his plate than he thinks.
Since 2009's District 9, audiences, myself included, have been waiting for another movie from director Neill Blomkamp. Neill proved himself to be not just a great visual director, but one with an interest of political subtext hidden behind his story. It had been a long time since someone presented something similar to District 9 and audiences to this day still talk about it. After an impressive box office run, it was only a matter of time until we saw Neill's products again. 4 years later, we're presented with Elysium, a great film that has the unfortunate task of following up District 9. In comparison, Blomkamp's second feature will disappoint some expectations. But as a stand alone film, Elysium is a fun and wild ride with plenty to love.
Damon's Max is very simply a regular Joe who has always dreamed of one day buying his ticket to Elysium and escaping the poverty of Earth. Damon plays him just fine, although there isn't much to do for him up until his radiation exposure. In his actions scenes, however, it is clear that Damon isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, delivering blow after blow and shooting explosive bullets at droids. Once things start kicking in, Max has more to bring to the screen and Damon has no problem doing so. It's nice seeing Jodie Foster back on the big screen as Secretary Rhodes, even if she does add a somewhat absurd accent that confuses more than pleases. The clear scene stealer has to go to Blomkamp's trusty companion, Sharlto Copley, as Earthbound Elysium agent, Kruger. This is a guy who will flip a middle finger to a car while exploding it. He's ruthless and will kill for any reason he sees fit. Armed with a machete and a diabolical grin, Copley plays Kruger perfectly and proves he is a force to be reckoned with. Especially after seeing how vulnerable and awkward his Wikus was in District 9, his Kruger is a surprising turn and some of the most fun the movie has to offer.
The political subtext in Elysium is much more front and center here than some may have expected, but it never takes away from the thrills and drama at play. One could easily compare Elysium's government and their message to that of the Republicans. But more simply, that major corporations are corrupt and no longer serve the people. It's nothing that puts a bad taste in any mouths but it is present. Once again, for anyone who saw District 9, political subtext isn't a big surprise for Blomkamp, but it is much more front and center in Elysium.
Blomkamp has some sort of fascination with brutal violence and you won't find me complaining. At any chance he gets, Blomkamp will explode a body, dismember them with bullets and even reconstruct a few faces with a grenade. It never comes across as over the top, but it is significantly gory in comparison to most action films. Given the sense of reality Blomkamp likes to keep in his films, it feels both fitting and sort of out of place. Either way, the crew makes these deaths look as real as anything else in the movie, so there's not much to be upset about here. If anything, it helps make Kruger look like the evil son of a bitch he is.
Comparing Elysium to it's predecessor will certainly cause more disappointment rather than seeing it as a stand alone film, as it should be. Proving Blomkamp is both a visionary director and one with a great voice, Elysium is a thrilling trip well worth the price of admission. Now, Neill, about that Halo movie...