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Elysium - Review

Elysium

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

NEILL Blomkamp is fast becoming the new king of sci-fi as well as the creator of intelligent and original blockbusters – no mean feat given the proliferation of comic book movies and sequels.

Elysium, his follow-up to District 9, is another great example of how to deliver cinema that exhilarates as much as it engages the brain.

If it just falls short of the 5-star status of District 9, the film still remains one of the best mainstream releases of the summer (and maybe even the year).

Set in the year 2154, where a polluted, unhealthy and crumbling Earth is the domain of the poor and the rich orbit the planet in a space station named Elysium, the film follows ex-con Max (Matt Damon) as he suddenly finds his life expectancy cut short following an accident at work and in desperate need to get to Elysium, which can offer a cure.

He and a team of freedom fighters hatch a plan to kidnap one of Elysium’s wealthiest benefactors, John Carlyle , (William Fichtner) and ‘download’ his memory into Max’s to get him a pass, unaware that John has hatched his own plan with another of Elysium’s power players (Jodie Foster’s ruthless Delacourt) to take back control of the space station themselves.

Hence, the information they download could hold the key to the future of Earth’s inhabitants and puts them in the crosshairs of a cold-blooded mercenary, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), who will stop at nothing to retrieve it.

Blomkamp’s film operates on a much grander scale than District 9 and sometimes has trouble juggling all of its characters and storylines. But like its predecessor, it also displays an uncanny knack for including social commentary (in this case, immigration, the class system and corporate abuse) into a story that works on many different levels.

He also keeps the action muscular and treats his viewers as adults, providing the kind of spectacle that is as brutal as it is, at times, breathtaking.

Damon, for his part, makes for an endearing hero (whose desperation is palpable), while Copley (of District 9 fame) provides a ferocious villain (even if he lays on the South African accent a bit thick).

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Fichtner, Foster, Alice Braga (as a love interest) and Wagner Moura and Diego Luna (as two of Max’s allies).

Admittedly, the grand finale on Elysium does adhere to the type of race-against-time, big smackdown conventions that have blighted a lot of this summer’s blockbusters, thereby depriving it of a bigger emotional clout, but even within this there’s a lot going on to admire (not least Blomkamp’s decision not to cop out).

Hence, even with flaws Elysium remains a towering achievement: a visually arresting, thought-provoking and frequently exciting blockbuster that already deserves to sit alongside some of the genre’s classics. And you can’t ask for much more than that.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 105mins
UK Release Date: August 21, 2013