Big Screen Review :: Elysium

August 21st 2013


Elysium is the type of smart sci fi movie we rarely see anymore.

The best sci fi of recent times has been low budget stuff like Moon and District 9 while the big budgets get spent remaking Total Recall or on Transformers. The most enduring sci fi has more on its mind than robots and explosions – movies like 2001, Logan’s Run and Robocop combine spectacle with some big ideas and commentary on the time when they were made. Elysium is firmly in this mould.


It’s the year 2154, and the whole Earth looks like someone build a slum on top of a favela on top of a public housing estate.

The rich are not having a bar of this, and have built themselves a space station called Elysium to live on, which looks like some golf resort full of white people drinking ice tea. Matt Damon plays Max, a factory worker on Earth who is given five days to live. He decides he needs to get himself to Elysium by whatever means necessary, because they have the technology to cure him easily and painlessly. A death sentence on earth can be fixed by a ten second scan in a machine that everyone in Elysium owns, but that don’t exist on Earth. Mixed up with this is an attempted coup by Jodie Foster‘s über bitch defence secretary, and a truly psychotic mercenary played by Sharlto Coply.

Just as Neil Blomkamp‘s first film (District 9) was about apartheid, this, his follow up, is about the American immigration and health care system, where sick rich people get better and sick poor people die. Viewers here, though, won’t be able to see the scene of ramshackle ships attempting to land on Elysium and not think of our own approach to asylum seekers. While the parallels are a little heavy handed at time, the film isn’t bogged down by politics. It’s actually a tightly edited action movie above all things. Once Damon is on his way to Elysium, the movie doesn’t really stop to catch its breath. A couple of fight scenes were rendered completely incomprehensible by the annoyingly handheld shaky cam, but other than that it works terrifically well as a thrill ride, and as social commentary it’s just as good.

I thought the ending was a bit of a stretch, but its a movie that leaves you with plenty to chew on. They don’t make enough smart original sci fi these days, and Blomkamp is a one of a kind director, so make sure you catch Elysium. I liked it a lot.

— Elysium is in cinemas now.


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