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Matt Damon stars in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM. PHOTO BY: Kimberley French. COPYRIGHT © 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc

Movie Review: Elysium

“Elysium” is a space station where the rich lives, while Earth is the planet for the poor and sick. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in this futuristic thriller from the director of “District 9.”


Matt Damon stars in Columbia Pictures’ ELYSIUM. PHOTO BY: Kimberley French. COPYRIGHT © 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc



Written and Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
Produced by: Bill Block, Neill Blomkamp, Simon Kinberg
Executive Producer: Sue Baden-Powell
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura

Studio Synopsis:
n the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined planet. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the crime and poverty that is now rampant throughout the land. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QILNSgou5BY&noredirect=1′]

The space station. PHOTO BY: Courtesy of TriStar PIctures. COPYRIGHT:© 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jeanne’s Take:
In the year 2159 there are two classes of people associated with the planet Earth:  the vast majority of humans exist on an overpopulated and burned-out planet, and the very wealthy live on a beautiful space station called Elysium.

Matt Damon (“Good Will Hunting,” “The Departed,” the Bourne film series,“The Talented Mr. Ripley”) as Max represents the people of a ravaged Earth, and Jodie Foster (“The Brave One,” “Panic Room,” “Little Man Tate,” “The Accused”) as Secretary of Defense Delacorte defends the privileged population of space station Elysium.  In this future world, computers control just about everything.  These computers contain the software of your dreams, or your nightmares.

Max is born and raised on Earth but his hopes and dreams are connected to Elysium, which shines like a star in the night sky for a grubby youth raised in the slums of Los Angeles.  He and his childhood friend (well played by Alice Braga) dream of a better life before circumstances separate them on Earth (later in the film, their brief reunion as young adults is tender and bittersweet). The character of Max is the essential oppressed working man on Earth in 2159, lucky to have a job in this utterly defeated society.  Suddenly he is placed in an impossible position due to an accident, and then what had been his long-term, long-shot pipe dream becomes a dire necessity.  He must reach Elysium and he must do it in five days. How Max achieves this goal takes the viewer through a richly detailed underworld which exists in every broken society – filled with brutally ironic humor, grimy resilience, wacko moments and occasional tenderness as the human spirit struggles to survive.

Delacorte’s responsibility is protecting the outer-space suburb of Elysium from surprise visits by gritty Earth dwellers who have the expertise to repair abandoned space taxis and the desperation to try and get beyond Elysium’s fearsome weaponry. She displays ruthlessness in defending Elysium.

The stage is set for an epic conflict.  Max and Delacorte fight a war of strategy and violence which turns into a mutual struggle for survival, rather than just another incursion of Elysium’s air space. What is startling here is that factory worker Max and the Secretary of Defense Delacorte  never meet (this also may be for the first time in cinematic history that the two leads don’t appear together in any scenes), even thought their actions and reactions have a profound impact on Elysium and on Earth.


Jodie Foster plays Secretary Delacourt. PHOTO BY: Kimberley French. COPYRIGHT: © 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.

Damon’s Max is a fully formed character from the boy who asks the nuns why he can’t live on Elysium, to the convict who struggles to remain in the good graces of his automated parole officer, to the factory worker driven to risk everything to reach this fabled and fabulous place just out of his reach.  Meanwhile, Foster would be able to do wonders with this delicious character, a secretary of defense in Armani suits who speaks French at endless receptions on Elysium, if only her part had been written with imagination and a focused intention.  Instead what we have is a calculating war executive with no backstory and no real motivation.  Her conflict with the president of Elysium lacks fire, seems artificial.  It’s simply difficult to believe she would not have employed more sophisticated approaches to those pesky renegade space taxis entering unauthorized air space.   And she acts alone without a trusted “number two” to cover her back.

Neill Blomkamp, who is best known for writing and directing “District 9,” as well as doing the visual effects for TV’s “Stargate SG-1” and “Smallville,” wrote and directed this futuristic action drama. Blomkamp employs vivid imagery so the viewer will see the connection between today’s mindless destruction of the environment for short-term profit, and the decline in quality of life for the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants. The director has been quoted as saying, “This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.”

Listen up, though — viewers who love gadgets and technology, space ships and weapons, advanced software and sophisticated robots will really love this film. If you can get to Elysium, there is a medical machine that will repair your mashed and mutilated body parts, only if you can get there before you bleed out.  And if you wish to know what it’s like to receive bionic surgery without anesthetic or any of the other safeguards associated with cutting into your body, this film’s special effects are right up your alley.  A little bloody here and there, but the viewer receives a fascinating glimpse into the world of exoskeletons.

Overall, this is a fairly good adventure film.  There is plenty of sardonic humor as well as lots of blood and gadgets galore.  “Elysium” would have been a much better movie with stronger writing for the antagonist, secretary of defense Delacorte.

About Jeanne Powell

Jeanne Powell is a poet and short story writer, who teaches in a summer program for teens. Her most recent books are "My Own Silence" and "Word Dancing," available online and through booksellers. She also hosts spoken word events in San Francisco, and covers cultural happenings for online media.