Neill Blomkamp, writer/director of DISTRICT 9 sticks to what he knows in his second feature film ELYSIUM.
Much like his impressive debut DISTRICT 9, Blomkamp’s latest offering tackles a similarly socially and politically progressive premise. Mashing ‘gung ho’ action with relevant social comment, ELYSIUM transports us to the year 2154, when our planet is environmentally beyond saving.
The rich have retreated to a highly exclusive utopian existence on space station ‘Elysium’, while the mediocre masses remain on the heavily polluted, medically under resourced Earth.
We follow the roguish but ultimately ‘good’ Max (Matt Damon) who, like most Earth-dwellers, wishes for nothing more than to make a life on Elysium. However, as we see the space station’s Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) shoot guided missiles at refugee space ships, we have little hope for our dreamy hero.
No doubt you see the relevant political/social comment here. Like DISTRICT 9, Blomkamp tackles the difficult debate of citizenship and immigration – made even more powerful for us personally when considering Australia’s latest changes to boat people policies.
Admittedly, the first half of the film felt rather close to home – as it no doubt will for many ‘first world’ nations. But if you’re not into politics, don’t despair! The third act descends into pretty much straight-forward action, with the story arc diminishing somewhat towards the end.
The flick powers through a gripping and multi-layered first two acts that have real ‘heart’ even amongst all the politics. Yet the excellent ground work feels a little wasted by the rushed conclusion where, with literally a click of a button, we reach our resolution.
Don’t get me wrong: the final act is action packed and full of suspense, it just doesn’t have the depth or complexity of the first two.
Blomkamp once again depicts a realistic gritty, sprawling view of the modern day slum. The sets are detailed and believable. Some of the special effects leave a lot to be desired however, with obvious scale model use (forgivable) and CGI space ships reminiscent of THE PHANTOM MENACE (totally unforgivable).
With a budget of $100 million, I’d expect a little better visually.
The weapon effects however are out of this world…. I will say no more!
While I’m a fan of aggressive editing, it is a little over done here, with the fight choreography suffering as a result: the hand held camera work and fast cuts seriously affect visibility.
The cast is good. Damon is as reliable as ever, and the stunning Alice Braga delivers a heart wrenching performance as his childhood friend Frey. William Fichtner is deliciously malicious and as unhuman as you can get, and DISTICT 9’s Sharlto Copley is delectably crazy (a shudder will pass down my spine whenever I hear a South African accent from now on!)
Shame about Jodie Foster: I just wasn’t convinced. Perhaps because she looked like Julia Gillard but sounded like Margaret Thatcher….it was a weird combo.
DISTRICT 9 was always going to be a hard act to follow, and Blomkamp has done an admirable job. ELYISUM is a step above your usual action flick; it has heart and passes powerful comment on our narrow citizenship mentality. Despite it’s serious undercurrent, the flick is still a tonne of fun and brutal to boot.
I award it 6 stars.