Director Neil Blomkamp caught everyone by surprise with his sci-fi editorial on the African apartheid struggle with 2009's excellent District 9. Thanks to the success of that film, expectations are high for his newest film which disguises more social commentary, this time an analysis of the social class struggle in this part of the world, inside a great science fiction action flick. The result is Elysium: a rousingly entertaining movie that stands on the level of the other staples in the genre. In Elysium, it's the mid-22nd century, and all of Earth is essentially a third-world country. Disease is rife, poverty is the norm, and life is generally depressing. When the world started to turn for the worse, the richest among us (aka the "1%") fled to space and a floating satellite utopia called Elysium where they can live their lives in harmonic bliss. Our hero Max Decosta (Matt Damon) is just an average guy who used to run afoul of the law in his youth, but is now just trying to live an honest and simple life in what's left of Los Angeles. An accident at work ends up leaving him with just days to live, and as a result becomes desperate to get to Elysium any way he can, as the medical facilities there can instantly heal any ailment. He reverts to his criminal ways to earn a trip up, and in the midst of a simple heist stumbles upon something that could change the course of both Earth and Elysium forever.
I was not expecting Elysium to be as action-packed as it was, but it was a pleasant surprise to get a movie very similar in tone and feel to Total Recall (the 1990 Schwarzenegger original, not the crap 2012 remake). Matt Damon remains one of our most versatile and talented leading men. As he is usually prone to do, Damon simultaneously commands the screen without dominating it allowing the supporting cast to shine brighter more than they might normally. Jodie Foster is fine as Elysium's ruthless Defense Secretary who is trying to keep Elysium's star shining by any means necessary. The real star here though is Sharlto Copley who as Kruger, a sociopathic Elysium sleeper agent with a tremendous blood lust, steals the entire movie as the villain you love to hate. There's also a subdued performance from the always excellent William Fichtner who is criminally underused in this film.
The plot in Elysium was surprisingly basic, if not predictable, which is really one of the only knocks against it. The movie makes up for this though with exciting action sequences and solid cinematography. There was never a point in Elysium where I was bored or felt the movie was dragging along. I also tend to geek out over setting in movies like these and I was a fan of the visual polarity of the dystopian Earth contrasting with the pristine Elysium which the gamer nerd in me thought bore at least a thematic resemblance to the Mass Effect series' Citadel. Overall, I feel like Elysium is a much more accessible film than District 9; it's no meathead action flick, but it's not too smart to alienate people looking for something simpler.
Elysium was a great movie to watch, and it's always nice to see a movie born of a topical issue not get too wrapped up in the message it's sending to forget to be entertaining as well. I'll be watching Elysium again at some point, and you should make it point to watch it as well, as it's one of the finer sci-fi films in recent memory.
[easyreview title= "Review of Elysium" cat1title="Brad's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]