Elysium

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2154, two classes of people exist: the wealthy, who live on a luxurious space station called Elysium, and the poor who live on an overpopulated, devastated Earth. While residents on Earth are policed by ruthless robots, Elysium’s citizens live in comfort and regularly use bed-sized medical devices called Med-Bays to keep them free of disease and injury.

Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), a former car thief and parolee, lives in the ruins of Los Angeles and works at an assembly line for Armadyne Corp, the military company that supplies arms and weapons to Elysium, and creates the robots that police Earth. An accident at the plant exposes Max to a lethal dose of radiation, giving him only five days to live. Meanwhile, when a caravan of illegal immigrants from Earth attempts to reach Elysium and its Med-Bays, Elysian Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) orders a sleeper agent, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), to shoot down the shuttles. Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) reprimands her and dismisses Kruger from service. Delacourt, vowing to protect Elysium and her own power, bargains with Armadyne CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) to write a program that can override Elysium’s central computer and make her President. Carlyle creates the program in his office on Earth and uploads it to his brain for safekeeping, encrypting it with a lethal denial system.

Max, knowing his only chance for survival is a Med-Bay, seeks help from notorious smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura), with the assistance of his friend Julio (Diego Luna). Spider agrees to get Max to Elysium if he helps him steal valuable financial information from Carlyle. Recognizing Max’s weakened condition, Spider has his doctors implant Max with a powered exoskeleton, giving him superhuman strength, as well as a brain implant that can store data. Max, Julio and a team of Spider’s men intercept Carlyle’s ship, and Max downloads the data (including the program) to his brain. However, due to the encryption, the information appears unusable. Delacourt secretly deploys Kruger to rescue Carlyle and recover the program. In the ensuing firefight, nearly all of Max’s allies are killed, Carlyle is mortally wounded, and an injured Max retreats to the house of Frey (Alice Braga), a childhood friend whose daughter, Matilda, has leukemia. After learning that Max intends to smuggle himself to Elysium, Frey begs him to take Matilda with him so that she can be cured, but Max refuses. With Max on the run, Delacourt orders an airspace lockdown over Los Angeles to buy her enough time to recover Carlyle’s program.

When Max returns to Spider to collect his reward, Spider deciphers Carlyle’s program and realizes it can be used to make all of Earth’s residents legal citizens of Elysium. However, the airspace lockdown prevents Spider from launching a ship for Max. Instead, Max bargains with Kruger to be taken to Elysium, not knowing Kruger has Frey and Matilda held hostage. With the lockdown lifted, Kruger’s ship departs for Elysium. A scuffle ensues, resulting in Kruger losing most of his face to a grenade blast and causing the ship to crash land on Elysium. Max, Frey and Matilda are arrested and taken to Delacourt, who has a team prepare to download the data from Max’s brain, while Kruger’s men take their severely disfigured leader to the Armory. The extraction team discovers the encryption mechanism Carlyle has used, and that downloading the data will kill Max. Delacourt coolly consents, and heads off to find Kruger’s team.

Kruger is placed into a Med-Bay, which reconstructs his destroyed face. Delacourt chastises Kruger’s recklessness, but Kruger kills Delacourt, planning to steal the program for himself and rule Elysium. Kruger has his men install a superior military-grade version of Max’s exoskeleton onto himself, and rampages through Elysium looking for Max. At the same time, Kruger’s men kill most of the leaders of Elysium. Meanwhile, Max escapes from his confinement and frees Frey and Matilda. Realizing that Med-Bays only work for Elysian citizens, Max resolves to use Carlyle’s program to make everyone a citizen. He frees Frey and Matilda and sends them to the surface to find a Med-Bay, then meets with Spider to head for the main computer core. However, they are ambushed by Kruger. During the fight, Max tears the interface that connects Kruger’s brain to his exoskeleton directly out of his skull. Defiantly, Kruger tethers himself to Max’s suit and arms a grenade with the intent of killing both himself and Max, but Max rips the tether off, damaging his own suit, and hurls Kruger over a ledge to his death.

Spider and Max reach Elysium’s main data center where Spider realizes that activating the program will kill Max. Max speaks with Frey one last time over a radio, then activates the program himself. As he dies, the computer core is rebooted, registering every Earth resident as a citizen of Elysium. President Patel, who has just broken in to the computer core with a security team, finds his orders to arrest Spider refused, as the robotic guards now recognize Spider as a citizen. A Med-Bay cures Matilda and, since a massive number of new citizens on Earth are now recognized by Elysium’s main computer as being in need of medical treatment, a fleet of medical ships are automatically dispatched to Earth to begin their work

REVIEW:

Ever wonder what it would be like if the government kept bending over backwards for the 1% and just leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves, so to speak? Watch Elysium and you may get a glimpse into the bleak future. I don’t want to turn this into anything political, though, so I’ll do my best to keep my opinions to myself.

What is this about?

In this dystopian thriller set in 2159, the wealthiest humans move to a fabulous private space station, while life on Earth grows ever more grim. With no other options, an ex-con agrees to join a risky mission to bring balance to the two worlds.

What did I like?

Practicality. Film after film that is released year after year seem to be relying more and more on special effects. Sometimes this is nice, but for the most part one longs for some realistic, practical effects the way sci-fi was in the heyday of the late 70s and 80s (though I wouldn’t mind the cheese factor of the 50s and 60s, either). This director gets what the people want, as his films don’t rely on special effects. Truthfully, the CG is very limited, and I applaud that.

Social commentary. As one of my fellow pseudo-critics put it, the best sci-fi tends to stem from the writer’s view on social issues. If you take the time to think about it, that is true. This film takes healthcare and how there is a split among the classes, so much so that the 1% has left Earth! The fact that this filmmaker had the balls to tackle this subject is a stroke of genius in my eyes, and hopefully it opens some eyes to a topic that needs to be discussed.

Murdock. I have to tip my hat to Sharlto Copley. This is a guy who normally plays skinny, nice guys, and its is something he is good at doing. However, he managed to shed all that with this character, a mercenary-type guy who cares only about following orders and getting the job done. Let’s not mention how imposing the guy looks. Yes, he’s still skinny, but he’s a little more buff. The change in appearance and this well written character made for an impressive villain. Just wait until you see his throw down with Matt Damon’s character!

What didn’t I like?

French tickle. So, if you go by what this film tells us, speaking Spanish or being of Hispanic descent makes you poor and worthless, but if you’re somewhat French, then that means you’re rich and elite, by default. Ok, I exaggerate, but that is the way this film portrays the people. Everyone on Elysium speaks (not very well) with some kind of French accent/dialogue. Down on Earth, it is like Mexico has taken over the Earth. All the residents seem to be Hispanic, except for Matt Damon, his boss, and a few extras in the factory.

Accentuate. Of course, we have to have an evil mastermind behind everything. In this case, that person is a female politician played by Jodie Foster. Not a fan of this bitch of a character, but that is the way it is supposed to be. My qualm is with the way she portrayed this person. As I just mentioned, all of Elysium seems to have this weird French dialect, and she just can’t seem to get it. I almost want to say she went into dialect classes and stopped after a few weeks. The basics are there, but they everything hasn’t been learned. As far as Foster’s performance is concerned, this is a very generic character. She did a good job, but just about any competent actress could have done the same or better.

Earth. You know, for a sci-fi film that has the name of the utopian space station, for lack of a better term, Elysium in the title, there isn’t much time spent up there. At first I didn’t notice it, but as I was sitting here thinking and reflecting about what I just saw, I realized it. Now, the time on Earth isn’t wasted since they use it to develop characters, set up the story, and eventually make their way up to Elysium, but I just felt there should have been more time spent showing how great it was, rather than exploring how crappy Earth looks. We’ve seen this dystopian Earth in just about film set in the future, so give us something else, please!

In a world full of sequels, remakes, and unoriginality, Elysium was something much needed. It was nice to get a film that has a message, but doesn’t beat you over the head with it and is enjoyable. This is by no means a perfect film, but it is one that cane be enjoyed by most. I highly recommend it, so give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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