Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Elysium

Neill Blomkamp's Elysium is a movie I've been looking forward to for quite some time.  Ever since District 9 caught my attention as one of the best movies of this millennium, I've been eagerly awaiting Blomkamp's follow-up film.  Once Matt Damon signed-on to play the lead role, I was even more amped up.  After seeing this film a few weeks ago (sorry for the late review...mostly due to unpacking at my new home), I have to say I was slightly underwhelmed with the result.  Elysium is flashy, original, but ultimately seems forced at times and suffers from some strange plot quirks.

Matt Damon plays Max a native of Los Angeles in 2154 who works at a robot manufacturing plant.  The futuristic setting of Earth makes LA seem even more run down than it is now.  Max has dreamed all his life about escaping Earth and traveling to the pristine space-station in the sky known as Elysium where there is no crime, everything is clean and all kinds of diseases can be cured via a medical pod.  Jodie Foster plays Delacourt, a government official on Elysium that has aspirations of being president and views the people of Earth as basic parasites.  Max has an accident at work giving him only a few days to live.  He immediately decides to pursue a ride to Elysium and receives a metal exoskeleton from some questionable associates to help boost his stamina.  When Delacourt senses that Elysium is being threatened, she unleashes a bounty hunter named Kruger (played by Blomkamp veteran Sharlto Copely) to infiltrate the resistance.  Blomkamp does a great job of contrasting the gleam and shine of Elysium with the despair and ruin of Earth.  The concept is set but the acting and execution of Blomkamp's vision lacks in certain areas of the film.

Foster is basically a throw-away here.  Her character is constantly gruff and not very interesting.  Thankfully there's not much of her on-screen throughout.  Damon is really good in the lead role of Max. He is very convincing in portraying the sacrifices that Max has to make in an attempt to free the citizens of Earth.  Copley is still one of my favorite actors working today, but his character is just so strange in this film.  Kruger has all the nuances and wit of Wikus van der Merwe in District 9 but we're supposed to fear him because he looks all dirty and has a beard?  I just didn't find him all that menacing or evil and I don't know why Blomkamp decided to put the entire security of Elysium in the hands of a grungy drifter on Earth.

The beginning and the end of Elysium are the best parts of the movie. The ending in particular was one of the instances in which I connected with Max.  Blomkamp's problem here is the middle of the film where it just seems a bit rushed and convoluted at times.  The visuals are great throughout and I still believe in Blomkamp as an up-and-coming director, but I just wasn't blown away by this film.  Unfortunately I have to give Elysium a modest 3 out of 5 JRs.

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