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Sunday, August 4, 2013


Matt Damon stars in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM.
Photo by Kimberley French

©2013 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.  All rights reserved.

2013, 109 minutes
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout

Review by Joshua Handler

Summer 2013 has been filled with one big-budget bomb after another.  After seeing the disposable Man of Steel, White House Down, The Wolverine, and countless other action extravaganzas sqaundering hundreds of millions of dollars, I was hoping a top-quality action film would come along.  Elysium was the answer to my hopes.  While not a perfect film, it is one of the summer's best mainstream films and is a visionary piece of sci-fi/action filmmaking from Oscar-nominee Neill Blomkamp, director of District 9.

Elysium tells the story of Max (Matt Damon), a worker living on an overcrowded, diseased Earth in the future.  In this future, the rich live above Earth on a habitat called Elysium, where people live forever and there is no crime or disease.  One day, Max is exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and needs to get up to Elysium to save his own life.  The film tells the story of his efforts to try to get up there and the people who try to stop him.

The visual effects in Elysium are absolutely stunning.  For once, almost everything looks real and the VFX completely immersed me into the film's world.  The Inception-like booming score enhances the epic quality of the film and Blomkamp's eye for detail make this an immersive experience. 

The film has (to my knowledge) few to no logic holes, a rarity for sci-fi/action films nowadays.  It is not a dumb movie and aspires to be a comment on today's society.  The film has the simplistic view of poor being good and rich being bad.  That's pretty much all of the social commentary this film gives, which is a shame since it's not smart, insightful, or new.  It isn't nearly as sharp as it thinks it is, which is a shame since this could have been more than a great sci-fi/action film.  District 9's social commentary was provocative and presented in an original manner.  This isn't.  It is good, though, that the film is so entertaining.

Blomkamp's action sequences are stunningly-directed, brutal, and visceral.  The camera shakes, but not enough to disrupt viewing pleasure.  I got a rush from watching them.  They are smartly-choreographed and exciting.  It is as if Blomkamp actually cares about the action.  Imagine that!  Most of this summer's action scenes (save for one in The Wolverine and those in J.J. Abrams' brilliant Star Trek Into Darkness) have been generic and boring.  Blomkamp has a huge imagination and puts it to good use in Elysium.

As far as acting goes, this one's a winner with one exception.  Matt Damon turns in a typically strong performance as Max.  I actually cared whether he lived or died.  Damon has that "everyman" quality to him that makes him instantly likable and relatable.  Sharlto Copley (District 9) plays Kruger, a vicious sleeper agent working for the malicious Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster).  Kruger is the best villain I've seen in ages because he's merciless and utterly despicable.  Copley's performance is very strong and menacing.  He's the rare bad guy you're actually afraid of every time he appears.  Foster, a typically strong performer, falters here.  She has an annoying accent and is very stiff.  Luckily, this doesn't detract much from the film, as she's on the screen for a relatively small amount of time.

Overall, Elysium is summer entertainment at its finest.  Yes, it is emotionally manipulative and not as sharp as it thinks it is, but it is a marvelous piece of entertainment.  I applaud Blomkamp for not toning down the R-rated violence, as this adds to the realism and brutality of the world.  Elysium should prove to be a rewarding trip for moviegoers who love sci-fi/action films.


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