Sunday, September 1, 2013

Elysium Review: Blomkamp Two-for-Two

Matt Damon said in an interview that he was most proud of this film because he got to star in a major
blockbuster that was not a sequel, or a franchise - that the team just made a good movie. He was absolutely right. Neil Blomkamp's second major motion picture gives the feel of a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, but retains the craft and immersiveness of a real piece of art from the South African director.

It is 2154 and the human population is divided in a thinly-veiled reference to today's economic inequality. We are faced with similar problems, like overpopulation, undernourishment, and lack of healthcare. The wealthy have left earth for a halo-like installation called Elysium (a heavenlike place in Greek mythology), where they are provided with an essentially perfect lifestyle.

Jodi Foster is tasked with the defense of this installation (basically keeping Earth rifraff out), and does not hesitate to overstep her mandate and use extreme force to do so. Matt Damon, meanwhile, is a former career criminal who, caught in an industrial accident, has days to live. As a last resort, he calls on his former connections to get him to Elysium and use their magical health machines.

Plot: 4/5 - It wasn't nearly as groundbreaking a story as Blomkamp's first effort, District 9 (which was basically a perfect film), and it is even a bit predictable at times, but the story is still fascinating, and Blomkamp is a very game storyteller. If one thing stands out from his films, it is his ability to create a universe. Plot is a big part of this, and the movie does a fantastic job of it.

Writing: 3/5 - This was definitely the movie's weakest part. The dialogue was fine, but it was not creative, there were few moments of comedy, and only a couple of times where tension is really in play either. The story is a tragedy, and Blomkamp relies on story and imagery to convey these emotions more than his writing.

Acting: 4/5 - I am continually impressed by Sharlto Copley. He deserved award buzz for his starring role in District 9, and I thought he stole the show as Murdoch in the A-Team. He plays a despicable mercenary in Elysium, a hitman for Jodi Foster and the Elysian government, and while it is easy to hate a character when rape and killing are written into his story, it is the absolute glee that Copley takes in his actions that make Kruger (the character) absolutely loathsome. Matt Damon and Jodi Foster are fine, too.

Aesthetics: 5/5 - This is where Blomkamp shines. His ability to use creative, powerful shots, strong sound editing, and an impressive score are his key tools in the aforementioned universe-building. It is amazing that with so little preamble we are able to so fully understand and appreciate everybody's situation, and it is through the look and feel of the movie that we are so completely immersed.

Final Score: 80%

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