Movie Review: Elysium

I tend to stay away from the explosive alternatives, but I made an exception and went to see Elysium.

While the film deserves its R rating, this dystopic fantasy is actually a cautionary tale about what could happen if an elitist group decides to limit entry to their hovering paradise.

In Elysium, the “haves” live in a space colony where its residents have access to abundant food, clean water and magical machines that eradicate all illnesses. In 2154, near immortality is available to everyone who inhabits this luxury wheel that is tantalizingly close to the “have-nots” living on a dark and desolate Earth.

Matt Damon delivers an impressive performance as Max, a blue collar worker living in a stark, unrecognizable Los Angeles. Unlike the other “have-nots” who have accepted their fate, Max is determined to reach Elysium. After a serious industrial accident leaves him dangerously radioactive, Max brokers a deal with grubby entrepreneur Spider (Wagner Moura). Several gritty scenes follow and I had to avert my eyes several times, especially while an exoskeleton fighting suit was welded to Max’s body.

Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster), the 108-year-old protector of the space paradise, is determined to keep out any intruders. Foster nails the performance, but her scenes are few and far between.

I did not recognize too many of the other characters. Writer/director Neill Blomkamp selected A-list film stars from other nations, among them Sharlto Coley who plays a fearsome government agent and Alice Braga, Max’s love interest. The blending of different accents and languages— English, Spanish, Portuguese—give the film an international flavor, further driving home the universality of its theme.

I appreciated the softer moments when Max recalled childhood conversations with a caring nun. The scenes with nurse Frey (Braga) and her terminally ill daughter were also poignant, bringing even more attention to the virtues of universal health care.

Several days have passed and I’m still thinking about this film. Definitely worth seeing.


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