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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Movie review - Elysium


Went to see the new science fiction action thriller Elysium this afternoon, and I really liked it, even more than Pacific Rim. Best sci-fi pic I've seen in a long time. Elysium was directed by Neill Blomkamp, who made a name for himself in the industry with his independent debut feature film, District 9, which was both a critical and box office success.

Elysium stars Matt Damon, whom I personally think is highly underrated as an actor. I've really enjoyed his performances lately in We Bought a Zoo, Beyond the Candelabra, and this picture. I think he brings an everyman quality to any role he plays. He makes it relatable no matter what the role. Well, maybe not so much Jason Bourne. That one's kind of a stretch to relate to.

His costar and foil in the film is Jodie Foster, whom I conversely consider to be extremely overrated as an actor. I just think she hit her high point way back in The Silence of the Lambs and has never regained that glory despite having a few hits since then. Though I did like her in Contact as well. I've never quite gotten why she gets such attention in Hollywood. I liked her as a child actor, but to me she's just kind of annoying nowadays in most films.

Part Mad Max, part Cyborg, part Holy Bible and part Johnny Mnemonic, Elysium takes place in the mid-22nd century. Earth has been raped and basically destroyed by the human race, so it has been left to the indigent "have-nots," while the richest and most powerful people in the world have pulled together the resources to construct for themselves an enormous, terraformed space station in orbit around the dying planet. This is Elysium.

Damon plays a factory worker named Max who has always dreamed of the day he is able to find a way to take himself and his childhood sweetheart and lifelong love to the beautiful manmade paradise of Elysium, where there is no crime, no poverty, no disease, and anyone who dies does so of old age alone.

Foster is ballsy Secretary of Defense Delacourt who takes no prisoners in stopping illegal immigration of unlicensed earth folks who constantly attempt to infiltrate Elysium security and stow away on the space station to make a better life for themselves.

When our hero is accidentally exposed to a massive dose of radiation in a manufacturing plant accident, he has no choice but to return to his former lucrative life of crime to pull one more, practically suicidal job to earn the money to pay for his ticket to Elysium. This is how he ends up crossing paths with dirty double government agents of Elysium, and his own plans of salvation entangle with Delacourt's deceitful political power play.

Action-packed and exciting, with Max an overtly Christlike figure by the end, I found the movie to be very enjoyable. I like seeing new interpretations of a bleak earth future. It was well crafted and well written, though there were a couple of issues I had that prevent me from calling it flawless. 

The biggest potential distraction from full enjoyment was Jodie Foster's horrendously inconsistent accent. I think it was meant to be French...ish? But it was just hit-and-miss. At times it would wax and wane crazily like the ocean tides of Bespin (if it had any liquid oceans), even during the same scene. Foster's never been known for her versatility with accents, but this was worse than Mike Myers' faux Scotsman, even pre-Shrek. Not that his Shrek characterization was particularly impressive...

All in all, a nicely done film. It's not often that a sci-fi flick comes along that I can enjoy with my wife. I think the last one we both liked and saw in the theater together was The Matrix. The first one. And that was some time ago.

Well done, Neill Blomkamp. I fell asleep during District 9, but this I liked. Hmm. Perhaps I should give District 9 another shot. I'll check Netflix this weekend. Maybe I didn't give it a fair shake. It's pretty difficult to find any negative feedback on that movie, so there must be something to it. Stay tuned on that front...