Tuesday, August 20, 2013


By James Colt Harrison

Elysium brings together two top stars in Matt Damon and Jody Foster in a science fiction film by South African-born director/writer Neill Blomkamp. Given a budget of $90 by TriStar Pictures, Blomkamp wrote the script and says “No, no, this isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.”

The director’s outlook is somewhat gloomy, considering the theme of the picture is what happens to earth in 2154. Not a pretty picture at all. The earth is ravaged ---when isn’t it in a sci-fi film?---and living conditions are dreary for the ordinary human being. But wait---there is hope for the wealthy! There is a high-tech space station lurking by that is like Utopia. Not only that, but there are miraculous machines that can cure diseases and make everyone like new. Naturally, those lucky enough to have the money to live there do not want any immigrants to clutter up the place. All those who try to penetrate the space station are brutally turned away.

Enter Matt Damon. There has to be a big star to abuse, sock in the nose, and terrorize. After all, the studio has to justify those big bucks they pay him that bloat the budget. Unfortunately, he plays an ex-con named Max DeCosta who has an accident in the factory where he works. The industrial incident has infected him with cancer that can only be cured by one of the miracle medical machines on Elysium.

No one is allowed on Elysium unless they are citizens of the space module. Naturally, after his accident, Max is determined to get to the satellite and get cured. He has only five days to get there, and will do anything it takes. One attempt is to kidnap a billionaire (William Fichtner) and steal his identity code to enter the utopian space.

None of this can be done today without voluminous amounts of computer gadgets and lots of wire and switches. Max’s best friend Julio (Mexican star Diego Luna) is the computer nerd, along with the help of Spider (Wagner Moura). A cringe-inducing scene is when Max has a computer memory drilled into his head to protect secret codes.

To add to the complications Max reconnects with his boyhood crush Frey (South American star Alicia Braga) and her little girl Matilda (Emma Tremblay). The girl is suffering from terminal leukemia and must also get to Elysium for a cure. Ms. Braga plays her role with confidence and plays a nurse with authority. Her concerns for her daughter’s welfare seems sincere.

Action scenes are liberally sprinkled throughout the film, but there is also some heart sprinkled within because of the little girl’s dilemma and the past that Max and Frey shared as kids. If a normal person endured the beatings, pummelings, and smashings that Max has to take, they would end up in traction for a decade. But our star Damon comes through with some scratches, a stab wound, and a few bruises. All this after he suffers a brutal attack by a ten foot high robot. Damon must have been sabotaged by the hair stylist after having his noggin shaved to a very unattractive nub.

Oscar® winner Jody Foster is the Secretary of Defense of Elysium, and she is a mean one. She conjures up a coup to rid the space habitat of its president so she can take over. Ms. Foster always commands the screen, and this is a good part for her to show her screen power to advantage. She does not want Max to reach the station to cure his cancer, so she pulls out all of her power to kill anybody who gets near. Foster is tough, nasty, authoritative, and wonderful in her CEO-type part. It’s good to see her after a long break off the screen.

It’s actually quite an enjoyable film with good actors. The production design by Phillip Ivey (District 9) excellently captures the ravaged cities on earth (filmed in the poor sections of Mexico City) and the beautiful, Beverly Hills-type suburban green areas on Elysium.

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