I have a confession to make. I didn’t love District 9. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it. I did enjoy it, but I only saw it once and haven’t seen it since. It was original and different but I didn’t go ga-ga over it like some people did. So I wasn’t super excited when I first heard about writer/director Neil Blomkamp’s follow-up Elysium. I saw some set photos of Matt Damon with a bald head and weird robotic suit and I thought it looked strange. The first trailer was released and I thought it looked good but still didn’t get too excited.
Then the second trailer was released. I watched it play out on the big screen and when it was finished I thought “That looks amazing!” I was officially excited.
In Elysium, the future is a grim and dirty place. If you’re not wealthy that is. The rich and powerful live in a space station that floats in space above earth known as Elysium. It’s a veritable utopia. Elysium residents all have med-banks which can erase any disease or mend any broken bone in a matter of seconds. There is no illness on Elysium. There’s plenty of it down on Earth, however. Matt Damon plays Max, an ex-criminal who just can’t seem to catch a break. He works in a factory making the robots that tend to control his life. In this future, many of the civil servants are all robots. Think talking to an automated voice on the phone is difficult? Try a robotic parole officer. When Max has an accident at the factory, he’s exposed to a major amount of radiation. He’s told he only has five days to live. He sees no other option: He must get to Elysium so he can cure himself. Any way he can. Including having a robotic exoskeleton attached to his body and hooked in to his nervous system.
There’s a bit more to the story than that. For example, Jodie Foster plays Elysium’s Defense Secretary with an agenda of her own. I don’t want to give too much away though.
This is one of the best original sci-fi movies I’ve seen in a long while. Blomkamp’s wrote an amazing script and imagined a fantastic new world for Elysium. The production design is fantastic. Earth is dirty and rugged and falling apart while Elysium is clean, crisp, colorful and shiny. The two worlds couldn’t be more different and you understand why citizens of Earth long to leave their home planet to live on a colony in space.
The cast is very diverse, which is cool. Matt Damon is terrific as Max. I’ve never really seen Damon phone it in, and he definitely does an excellent job in this movie. Sharlto Copley, from District 9, is awesome as a sleeper agent on Earth known as Kruger. Alice Braga is Max’s childhood friend, Frey. Diego Luna and Wagner Moura play Max’s friends Julio and Spider respectively. William Fichtner plays John Carlyle, the CEO of the company Max works for with slimy greatness. Unfortunately, the weak link in the movie is Jodie Foster. She’s not terrible by any means, but her performance feels just that: a performance. She does this strange half-southern, half-british accent that is mostly distracting. I wish she had played it straight with her own accent. She could have been great.
I also have to mention the cinematography and the score. I was unfamiliar with both the cinematographer Trent Opaloch and composer Ryan Amon, but I’m going to keep an eye out for both of them in the future. Opaloch was the cinematographer for District 9, which isn’t surprising. Both films, even though they are science fiction, are grounded very much in reality and both films have a gritty quality to them that Opaloch captured nicely. He’s credited as the cinematographer for the Captain America sequel. Can’t wait to see his work in that one. According to IMDb, Ryan Amon has never scored a movie before. Well, good job Mr. Amon, you knocked it out of the park on your first time out. I’m hoping to pick up the score soon. It’s excellent.
Elysium was suspenseful and incredibly entertaining, with a lot of heart as well. I give it an A.
Check out the trailer that officially got me hooked below.