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Elysium

Year: 2013
Studio: Sony
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Producer: Simon Kinberg
Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, Sharlto Copley, Diego Luna, William Fitchner

This movie uses several scenes and devices to do something really well. It extrapolates some very common tropes that give us all cause for complaint if we're one of the masses and replants them in a world of the future. Think your boss sucks? Hero Max (Damon's) boss tells him to go into a chamber that might get flooded with deadly radiation to unjam a door or lose his job.

Sick of having to deal with computers and machines that have too much authority and won't let you deal with a human? After an unprovoked incident with the police, a robot summarily extends his probation period, threatening cheerily that it can hear sarcasm in his voice when he responds, meaning Max just has to suck it up.

Do you feel like the rich live in a protected enclave of privilege and wealth while the rest of us scrabble around in the real world in search of the few crumbs left? Elysium is the ultimate expression of it – a giant space station where the rich all live in carefree luxury while the poor try to scratch a living of boring manual labour or crime on the Earth's surface.

The metaphors are very well executed, but if you're observant the irony won't be lost on you. The very people who'd live on Elysium if it was real (movie stars and big name directors filmmakers) are the ones lecturing you about universal health care while they sit in Bel Air mansions with their millions.

Max is a former crim trying to keep his head down and go straight when the workplace accident exposes him to a deadly dose of radiation that will kill him in only days – ironically, his job is on a factory line building the police security robots that harass him outside every day.

His only chance is to reach Elysium, where the latest in medical technology can cure anyone of almost anything by lying on a special bed and having an electronic scanning arm swept over them.

He enlists the help of former gang member associates, one of whose activities is trying to hack the Elysium computer systems. If they can lower the defences long enough to get Max aboard, he can find his way to one of the Cure-a-tron beds and maybe even save the rest of humanity as well. They task Max with retrieving top secret codes that reboot Elysium's systems from a company executive visiting Earth (Fitchner), which will let them get Max on board.

But there's a fly in the ointment before they can even leave. Sharlto Copley is Kruger, a fearsome manhunter kept on the surface to carry out dirty work for Elysium's polished but slimy defence secretary Delacourt (Foster). She gives Kruger the mission to find and stop Max and his band, and they're prepared to fly to the end of the Earth (and beyond) it to do so.

The race is on to stay one step ahead of the violent Kruger, get off world and land safely on the fortified space station to bring down The System.

The visuals, design and machinery are as fantastic as they were in Blomkamp's District 9, but Elysium falls somewhat victim to the same effect Joseph Kosinski did with Oblivion – many critics feeling he wobbled a bit when given a bigger star and bigger budget.

Some of the problems are in the casting. Damon is as dependable as ever, but Foster does the most stupid accent ever as Delacourt. Speaking of accents, it would be racist to suggest Copley's native South African brogue is stupid, but it's far from scary and – coupled with his kind of scrawny frame – Kruger is the least scary villain in a long time no matter how grotesque and sexually threatening he is to leading lady Freya (Braga).

It's a good-looking sci-fi action flick with a strong theme, it just can't help feeling a little bit bogged down and lecture-y. In one of its clearest mission statements, the Earth scenes are set in Los Angeles, which seems to be populated solely by Latin and Hispanic races (all except for Damon). What clearer metaphor could Elysium be for Beverly Hills, while the ruined Los Angeles of 150 years hence stands in for South and East LA?

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