out of Five
Running time: 109
Writer-director Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9 is an engaging, fast-paced Sci-Fi thriller with a strong script, gripping action set-pieces, superb special effects work and a terrific central performance from Matt Damon.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, Elysium is set in 2154 - where the world is explicitly divided into the haves and the have-nots, with the poor living in slum-like conditions on the over-populated Earth's surface and the rich living in a floating satellite space station community called Elysium, where every citizen enjoys free high-tech health care. Matt Damon stars as Max, a blue-collar worker based in the favelas of Los Angeles, who has always dreamed of going to Elysium with his childhood sweetheart Frey (Alice Braga), but finds his day-to-day existence blighted by robot cops and a fractious relationship with the boss at his factory job.
However, when Max receives a fatal dose of radiation, he realises that his only hope of survival is to break into Elysium and access a healing machine, so he enlists the help of tech hustler Spider (Wagner Moura) and embarks on a desperate mission that involves getting a robot exo-skeleton grafted onto his body. However, events take an unexpected turn when Max attempts to hi-jack contractor Carlyle (William Fichtner) and stumbles into a plot to take over Elysium, which leads to him being targeted by villainous Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster) and her vicious mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley).
Matt Damon delivers a reliably solid, likeable turn as Max and there's strong support from Sharlto Copley (chillingly brutal), William Fichtner (splendidly contemptuous of Earth dwellers) and Diego Luna as Max's best friend Julio, who puts him in touch with Spider. The only let-down is Jodie Foster, who delivers a distractingly dodgy French accent and seems disconcertingly out of place as Rhodes (luckily, she has relatively little screen time).
Blomkamp's direction is assured from start to end; as with District 9, he knows every inch of this world inside out (arguably, it's set in the same future as District 9 as the visual landscape is extremely similar) and the production design work is highly detailed throughout.
Blomkamp also directs with a strong sense of pace that reflects the urgency of Max's situation and he orchestrates a number of terrific action set-pieces, most notably the attempted hi-jacking sequence.
The special effects are impeccable throughout, seamlessly integrated into the film in a way that feels completely organic – there's not a single dodgy CGI moment, for example. In addition, the gripping script is both emotionally engaging and thought provoking, even if it's slightly heavy-handed with its central message.
Elysium is a worthy follow-up to District 9, thanks to an engaging and intelligent script, assured direction, thrilling action sequences and a superb central performance from Matt Damon. Highly recommended.