Release date: August 9, 2013
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna
Who to see it with: Someone who wants more exoskeleton combat
Elysium's plot essentially has three acts: the introduction, the journey to Elysium, and the events on the station. Unfortunately, this last third of the movie goes overboard with an over the top plot and an antagonist whose character takes a somewhat absurd turn, even for a sci-fi space movie with wonder healing stations. Elysium does a lot of things right. The setting is presented well and executed perfectly, especially the overcrowded and dilapidated Los Angeles. The sci-fi tech is interesting with a nice mix of futuristic technology and gritty, less advanced but equally impressive hydraulic exoskeletons. And the sound is definitely a highlight of the film, with a building musical score in the action sequences and some well placed silences (and loud Inception style booms) during dramatic parts. However, Elysium counteracts these great aspects with a final act that is ridiculous and unfulfilling. Unfortunately, Elysium shoots for the moon but doesn't quite make it.
The setting and divided population present interesting ideas, but in an unclear manner. I guess you can simply assume that Elysium represents a futuristic, larger-scale version of white flight out of declining cities into the suburbs, and that it's unfeasible to share their wondrous medical stations with the poor who appear to need it much more. Or maybe the wealthy don't care to share because they feel that healthcare is a luxury, or they're purposely leaving Earth in squalor and indebted to them. Director Blomkamp cared less about the reasoning than presenting an exaggerated depiction of current societal issues. However, his previous film, District 9, offered a more satisfying narrative.
The chaotic third act would be fine if the antagonist's plans and motives were better explained, but things suddenly become really messy in a way that seems to have no logical endgame. Like Foster's accent, that of William Fichtner's Elysium executive is also a bit odd. Perhaps the upper class purposely chose to adopt highbrow speech patterns, in addition to their occasional lapses into French. The story is a little too reliant on flashbacks to poignant childhood moments to easily get an emotional reaction. Elysium's utopian habitat seems to have made the government complacent because their security is lacking. A good hacker could wreak havoc on the computer-run world, and it's far too easy for powerful Elysians to run amok. Elysium has a great setting and interesting themes, but I wish it had a tighter conclusion.