It’s more than obvious that when people go to their local movie house on rent/buy a DVD, they don’t want to think about anything, aside from having a good time. Fair enough, but being voluntarily stupid doesn’t exactly contribute to society. Message films today are kind of looked upon as “pro-Commie, bleeding heart propaganda” (thanks, Fox News), but they still have a place in the world. One of them is “Elysium”, Neill Blomkamp’s slam-bam yet thoughtful follow-up to his Oscar-nominated “District 9”.
Like the song by the funk band, War, the world has become a ghetto by the year 2154, due to disease, pollution and overpopulation, and anyone big-pocketed has high-tailed it to a halo-shaped space station, its’ name shared with the film’s title, decked with Beverly Hills-like mansion, servant and security droids and rejuvenation chambers. Any “undesirables” are quickly shot down, under the command of Delacourt (Jodie Foster, “Taxi Driver”, “Flightplan”) the station’s secretary of defense.
The fly is in the ointment happens to Max Dacosta (Matt Damon, the “Jason Bourne” saga, “Dogma”), an ex-thief turn robot factory worker, who’s dying of radiation poisoning after a work-related accident. Refitted with an exo-suit by “smugglers”, he’s sent to capture and download financial intel from the brain of his apathetic ex-boss (William Fichtner, “Prison Break”, “Drive Angry”) as payment for his journey to the space station, but the intel’s actually a reset program for said station as the ingredient for a coup, making Max a target for DelaCourt and her field soldier, the sociopathic Kruger (Sharlto Copley, “District 9”, “The A-Team Movie”).
Like “District 9”, which allegorized apartheid in South Africa, “Elysium” brilliantly allegorizes illegal immigration, social division and healthcare. Did it have to take a South African-born filmsmith to make a sci-fi satire about the aforementioned topics? Guess so, else the film’s wouldn’t had a sharp edge, the space station being a pristine heaven while Earth’s a garbage-encrusted, decaying hell. Production designer Phillip Ivey captures that division, especially in the look of the technology. No one here’s in exactly good or bad, just opportunistic, noting how society can fall so low. Damon fits in a role Bruce Willis could have played to a T; Foster echoes Sigourney Weaver with pure coldness and Copley, the 21st Century’s Bruce Campbell, is both bottle-cap sardonic and sinister. They’re helped by Alice Braga (“Repo Men”) as an old childhood love of Max; Diego Luna (“Rudo Y Cursi”) as Max’s old heist pal and Wagner Moura as an “tech coyote”.
“Elysium” is one of those films that deserves to be watch more than once because, like Blomkamp’s first film, it tells the truth about the human condition in a sci-fi canvas.