So here comes the movie which I have been waiting for, since the day it released in the United States, and then again starting another big wait from the day in released in the United Kingdom. This was also the movie I was looking forward to watch in 2013, after Pacific Rim. Other than the presence of Matt Damon, the other interesting thing about this movie was what was told in the brief summary associated with it, and surely that name. The name was quite familiar in relation to some of the stories related to Greek mythology which I had come across during my childhood. Yes, that varied vision of paradise had left a mark, and here is that name revisited through this movie, not as what comes after afterlife, but all the same which are enjoyed during this life. The movie is set in 2154, when a group of wealthy people left the Earth after coming to know that their kind had destroyed the planet with greed and lavishness. With all the resources that remained on Earth, they created Elysium, a luxurious space station just outside the planet’s orbit to live a life free of disease and pollution. The lived a life of comfort assisted by robots and superior medical care, while the people of Earth were made to live on a devastated land, policed by robots sent from Elysium and deprived of their rights.
Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is a former criminal on parole working in Armadyne, the same company which built Elysium. But he is exposed to lethal radiation during an accident and is left with just five days to live. All is not well in Elysium either, as Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) orders a mercenary on her payroll, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to shoot down civilian shuttles full of illegal immigrants trying to make it to the city of their dreams. Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) condemns her action on the basis of human rights which leads to a cold war between the two. As Jessica looks forward to having more power and keeping it, makes a deal with Armadyne’s CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) to create a program that can shut down, reboot and override Elysium’s central computer in order to make her the new President. Carlyle creates the program in his office on Earth, encrypts it and uploads it to his brain so that he could take it back to Elysium for secret deployment. With the help of his friend Julio (Diego Luna), Max seeks help from a skilled smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura) to go to Elysium and get cured, to which Spider asks for Max to steal some information from Carlyle. He agrees, and supported by an enforced exoskeleton, he goes on a mission which could change the life of a lot of people.
Coming from Neill Blomkamp who gave us District 9, this movie is somewhat a let-down, and it struggles to keep its standard as high as that wonderful flick. Still, it is certain that the base of both of these movies are the same, and both deals with somewhat the same issue, which is the difference between the oppressor and the oppressed, the privileged and the under-privileged, the powerful and the subaltern. The 2009 movie had aliens coming to Earth and living on the planet only to become second-rate citizens, while our 2013 movie has humans going to a space station and making the rest of their kind second-rate citizens or rather the lesser species – almost the same thing. The protagonist is from the subaltern group this time though. Both are about the horrible divide between people, sometimes about the rich and the poor, and otherwise racial or ethnic in nature. The evil of the multinational corporations as well as the government funded policing of groups which are different in some way or the other, also exists. Elysium makes a good attempt to carry on that idea of divide which formed the skeleton of District 9, and adds more elements of science fiction and powers it using the expensive fuel of post-apocalyptic fiction which sells, and in the process it hurts the inner core.
This is undoubtedly Matt Damon’s movie, and one has to doubt it would have worked this well without him. In the dystopic future where Earth has become nothing more than a big slum of devastated towers and a collection of small ghettos. He plays a former criminal who wishes to go to Elysium so that he could save his own life, but later he transforms into something more, as the saviour of not only his friend’s daughter, but also of millions who can’t afford the riches of the new first world. He is a confused revolutionary and a saviour who doesn’t decide his change, but rather it happens to him. He becomes what the nun who raised him had told him when he was a child – for he became someone special, an act which is supported by flashbacks which works, but not the way the audience might have wanted. This might be his best performance since the first three movies in the Bourne series. The character should have done better with a little more attention to his thoughts and change rather than just making him change as if it was there in him since childhood. Surely, he could have had more to work with, and this movie’s overuse of brain has seriously worked against the character of Max, which could have been drawn from another level.
I am rather surprised that Jodie Foster is not the main villain in the movie, as I thought this was going to be her wonderful performance in the form of another great villain, from what it seemed in the trailer. We wanted that villain, and in the beginning stages of the movie, we also get the feeling that it is how it is going to be. It is a shame that she doesn’t impress at all this time. But there would be Sharlto Copley rather than Jodie in a performance which is quite strange even though good. But this is one character who shouldn’t have had this much screen presence even as the man seems to live in the character and keep it a level above most of the movie. In a movie which is something more than a science fiction, this is not the main villain we want, for this is a more suitable secondary villain character. The need for a more powerful in intellect and yet normal in muscular strength villain was there, and this need is not fulfilled. Its good to see Alice Braga after her last action movie Predators, to which I hope there will be a sequel. She plays the childhood friend of Max, and the one who has a deep impact on him. Despite the smaller screen presence, she makes a very good impact. William Fichtner could have made a great major villain, but his character dies too early for us to get a glimpse of a possible evil. He still symbolizes the corporate evil, the power of the multi-national entities which became inter-planetary entities.
There is action and there is the hidden theme of the lack of humanity and the division between humans. But the action is mostly of inferior quality and the social message is not that powerful as one would expect to. I would consider Oblivion a far better flick intellectually, and District 9 a far more effective movie with its social message. As far as entertainment is considered this won’t be a Star Trek: Into Darkness nor a Prometheus visually. Elysium is another one of those escapist fantasies for sure, but its bridge towards the social message is not that much a perfectly crafted link. Another factor should be that of blood and gore which comes in abundance here, and gets itself an adult certificate with the same, but still doesn’t manage to do it well enough. One has to applaud the visuals though, as the world of Elysium as well as that of Earth are well-detailed, and the robots as well as the flying machines are well-designed and works very fine. The action sequences are lesser, but still not too exaggerated. The movie’s confusion about where it belongs is clearly reflected in all those things which happen throughout its own little world. One has to applaud the idea, but still be confused about its effect on oneself, and how to think about this movie. The emotion couldn’t be felt deep enough, and my friend had recommended a seventy three for this, but I thought I should add a little more to the rating.
While the movie drags a bit, and keeps itself in a loop in which it gently repeats itself, there is still enough in its soul to keep us interested and make a good influence. The only movie of this year to which the action of this movie can be compared is World War Z; yes not to Oblivion which had another post-apocalyptic world with a supposed colony of humans in another place as Earth has gone down due to many forces of destruction (a theory which is proved wrong in a twist of fate which is found later). This drags like World War Z and gets the loop working as the same movie. This could have done with a better route in the script, and Jodie Foster as a different, but still the major villain. It is sad that all the potential had this movie only up-to this level – no, I am still glad to have watched this movie, but this should have been a great work on the screen, but it has missed that opportunity, and that is kind of saddening. May be they could have stuck to one thing in this movie rather than making it a masala social message, or may be there could have been a better balance; I wouldn’t be sure, but let me tell you that I was hoping to come out ready to give an eighty to eighty nine for this movie out of hundred, and seventy seven is a disappoint if we look at it that way.
Release date: 27th September 2013 (India); 21st August 2013 (UK)
Running time: 109 minutes
Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Alice Braga, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Valentina Giros, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir