Paradise Regained

Elysium

elysium

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Cast: Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, Jodie Foster, Brandon Auret, Alice Braga, William Fichner, Wagner Moura

South African born director Neill Blomkamp’s new sci-fi drama Elysium is visually astounding, thought provoking and violent. It’s the year 2154 and the wealthy citizens of earth have abandoned the overpopulated planet to go and live in a state of luxury and physical wellness on a wheel shaped space ship orbiting the earth’s atmosphere known as Elysium. Back on earth, the poverty-stricken and physically ill inhabit teeming run down cities filled with violence, decay and disease, of which Los Angeles is the metaphoric urban centre. Those men who are fit enough to work, spend their days in menial industrial labour, manufacturing robots which will police the poor citizens of the once prosperous planet whilst the rich international citizens of Elysium live in an illusory paradise, with clean air, mansions and advanced medical science.

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Matt Damon (Invictus, The Bourne Trilogy) plays Max a poor workman who as a boy dreams of travelling to Elysium and whilst growing up in an immigrant Mexican neighbourhood, befriends Frey played by the gorgeous Brazilian actress Alice Braga (City of God). Oscar winner Jodie Foster (Flightplan, Silence of the Lambs) plays Delacourt the malicious and ruthless defence secretary of Elysium who enforces the rules of exclusion, keeping illegal space immigrants from entering the super rich enclave. Whilst Elysium and the rubble strewn devastated Los Angeles, is metaphorically a story about the widening gap between rich and poor in a skewed yet almost relevant 21st century version of contemporary society, it is Blomkamp’s visually arresting and riveting style which keep audiences glued to a plot rife with Third World ironies and First World warnings.

The action and violence is top notch and District 9’s breakout actor Sharlto Copley stars as the malevolent South African mercenary Kruger who is hired by Foster to chase Max both on Earth and on Elysium. Watch out for the fantastic facial reconstruction sequence which makes Total Recall look like child’s play.

To reveal more about the plot would only give the twists away and in Elysium there are many, but what is so impressive about Blomkamp’s second Hollywood film is his increasingly inventive story is told with verve and candour whilst the theme of the world’s super rich receiving preferential medical treatment is both relevant and frighteningly apt. Paradise is regained as Max, equipped with a scary Mad Max neuro outfit battles with Kruger in a seemingly savage wasteland amidst a bid for a rather vicious and technological coup of the coveted Elysium.

Diego Luna (Milk, Contraband) stars as Julio who assists Max is achieving his quest of reaching Elysium, which takes on Biblical proportions along with William Fichtner (The Lone Ranger) as the evil industrialist Carlyle.

Heavily influenced by such classics as Blade Runner, Mad Max and even Slumdog Millionaire, Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium is both impressive in scale, with exhilarating action and special effects sequences aided by the best sound editing heard on film recently.

Whilst all the plot twists might not add up and in parts characterization is too sparse, the overall vision of a dystopian society which has no remorse at leaving a massive poverty stricken, malnourished and scarred population to fester on planet Earth while the wealthy live in a high tech gated lavish community such as Elysium, is enough to view this as more than just another sci-fi action thriller, but one with an overt and brutal socio-political message: the wealthy cannot prosper at the expense of the neglected poor whether it’s through medical science or technological and economic advancement.

Elysium is brilliant, captivating, horrifying and visionary, a sort of Moonraker on acid. Recommended for serious Sci-Fi fans and lovers of District 9.

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