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Review: Elysium

Aug. 5, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: In the year 2154, the wealthy have made a new home on a spectacular space-station called Elysium. There, the very, very rich can live a carefree life, in addition to one free of any health concerns, as each home is equipped with technology that can cure any disease, or heal any wound. Those who are left on Earth arent so lucky. When an ex-con, Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, and given only five days to live, he dons a metal exoskeleton, and takes on a dangerous mission to hack his brain into one of the colonys most prominent citizens, allowing him to access their life-saving technology.

REVIEW: ELYSIUM is director Neill Blomkamps long-awaited follow-up to his massively successful sleeper hit DISTRICT 9. Now playing with a rumored $90 million budget (modest for a summer tent-pole), despite the larger scale Blomkamps latest is just as uncompromising and imaginative as his first film, and a defiantly R-rated throwback to the sci-fi blockbusters of my youth, such as ALIENS, ROBOCOP and the original (i.e-good) TOTAL RECALL.

The director of those last two films, Paul Verhoven, seems to be a particular influence on Blomkamp here. While the body-count is modest compared to most modern sci-fi blockbusters, when the violence hits, it hits hard. Blomkamp does not shy away from the occasional ugly, gruesome death or wound, but compared to the clean carnage we usually see in PG-13 movies, not only does the R-rated ELYSIUM not seem excessive, but it seems downright responsible in that the ugliness of violence is never downplayed.

Blomkamp is nothing if not socially responsible, and like DISTRICT 9, ELYSIUM once again focuses on the disenfranchised. Unlike the ghettoized aliens of his last film, here its humankind thats forced to live on the fringes. DISTRICT 9 was a thinly disguised exploration of apartheid, while ELYSIUM is heavily influenced by whats happening at the U.S-Mexican border, with the earth-dwelling inhabitants, doing whatever they can to make the nineteen minute trip to Elysium, in the hopes of a better life.

Despite taking place 140 years into the future, the earth of ELYSIUM isnt that different from how it is now, only more run-down, and desperate, having been ravaged in every way possible, whether economically or environmentally. Mostly taking place in a future Los Angeles (with Mexico City filling in) ELYSIUM is like CITY OF GOD meets TOTAL RECALL.

Matt Damon, sporting a shaved head, plays the everyman hero. Max DeCosta is definitely no Jason Bourne, and like Wikus in DISTRICT 9, hes initially selfish, with his only goal being to survive, and everything else being secondary. This makes Damon a believable, intense hero, with a total absence of action hero posturing, and his numerous exo-suited battles and gunfights having a desperate intensity. Damon makes for an ideal hero, with his physicality suiting the action scenes, but also bringing an emotional charge to the film that we might not have gotten otherwise. Action heroes these days tend to be stoic. Here, Damons Max is terrified of dying, and just wants to survive.

By contrast, we have Sharlto Copley, the hero of DISTRICT 9, playing the sadistic villain, a mercenary working covertly for the bureaucracy of Elysium (represented by Jodie Fosters futuristic, and cold-blooded aristocrat), less for financial gain, and more simply for the joy of inflicting pain. Copley is both chilling, and often darkly humorous, and while he unapologetically chews he scenery, it really suits the part and he plays off Damon very well.

The supporting cast is a little more hit and miss. Oddly, the one performance in ELYSIUM I didnt really care for was Jodie Foster, whos pretty much my favorite working actress. Its a stylized performance, with her adopting a strange accent that (I think) is supposed to be French (a language she speaks perfectly throughout the film), but compared to the naturalistic Damon theres something about her performance that feels off. The always good William Fichtner plays another Elysium bureaucrat, and I found that he was actually more convincing than Foster. Fosters never bad (shes incapable of being bad) but shes not at her best here, at least in my opinion, and her performance feels weird although I dont doubt thats exactly what Blomkamp wanted from her.

Wagner Moura, the star of the ELITE SQUAD series, steals a lot of scenes as Damons underworld contact Spider, who winds up playing a much bigger part in Damons mission than expected. Meanwhile, Alice Braga and Diego Luna give the film some much needed heart, with both giving tremendously naturalistic, heart-felt performances.

As for the spectacle, in that area ELYSIUM certainly doesnt disappoint. Just like DISTRICT 9, Blomkamps loaded the film with spectacular, imaginatively captured action set pieces, including a few really good shoot-outs making use of some unconventional, futuristic weaponry. While the editing is a little more chaotic than DISTRICT 9, for the most part its also easy to discern, and the lack of 3D feels refreshing. I should also single out the awesome score by newcomer Ryan Amon, whose work here suggests that he may be one of the next big composers.

Suffice to say, Neill Blomkamp does not disappoint with ELYSIUM, with it being one of the most unique, and satisfying experiences Ive had at in theaters all year. Its badass, thrilling, often darkly fun, and extremely heartfelt. Most importantly, its also the rare blockbuster that will make you think, and a film I expect many of us will be revisiting over and over again in the years to come.

Source: JoBlo.com

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5:13PM on 09/19/2013
Loved everything except the weak characters and basic plot.
Loved everything except the weak characters and basic plot.
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1:53PM on 08/11/2013
Great visuals and ideas. Incongruent screenplay. What a difference a story development process makes when you don't have Peter Jackson as a producer.
Great visuals and ideas. Incongruent screenplay. What a difference a story development process makes when you don't have Peter Jackson as a producer.
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7:01PM on 08/09/2013

TRULY AMAZED

Just caught the matinee and feel a little guilty this one deserved a full price! No sophmore slump for Blomkamp I loved District 9 this to me even surpasses it.We get developed characters that we actually care about the performances by all were stellar,especially Damon as the guy we can relate to and Copley in a scene chewing performance delivering one of the best villains in recent memory,Foster was the tits too as the cuttthroat politician .Blomkamp has balls and his vision of two seperate
Just caught the matinee and feel a little guilty this one deserved a full price! No sophmore slump for Blomkamp I loved District 9 this to me even surpasses it.We get developed characters that we actually care about the performances by all were stellar,especially Damon as the guy we can relate to and Copley in a scene chewing performance delivering one of the best villains in recent memory,Foster was the tits too as the cuttthroat politician .Blomkamp has balls and his vision of two seperate societies one of the diseased, overpopulated planet and Elysium where the rich flourish disease free was richly brought to life truly a beautiful the effects by Weca are amazing! I bought in to this future world and the plot actually had a purpose with something to say about our modern society while still being balls to the wall entertaining and affecting its audience. I would say that so far Blomkamp is the most visionary ballsy directors today.Blomkamp delivers another classic go check it out i can't recommend enough !!!
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4:57AM on 08/06/2013
Wagner Moura is tremendous as Nascimento in the Tropa de Elite films. Anyone who liked City of God should check those out.
As for Elysium; District 9 was so fucking original and good that there was hardly a doubt in my mind about the quality of its follow-up. Mustering up that much faith after just one movie is not an easy feat for a director but he did it.
Wagner Moura is tremendous as Nascimento in the Tropa de Elite films. Anyone who liked City of God should check those out.
As for Elysium; District 9 was so fucking original and good that there was hardly a doubt in my mind about the quality of its follow-up. Mustering up that much faith after just one movie is not an easy feat for a director but he did it.
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9:23PM on 08/05/2013

Fail

This will be another fail Sci-Fi. The rich preaching to us about how bad the rich are. Like making the crew tramp through a toxic Mexican Dump. Mr. Everyman who says we should support public schools then sends his daughters to Private School. Who is the target audience? OWS crowd? Make a good movie and keep your politics to yourself. District 9 does not hold up to further viewings and what pray tell was Matt Damon's last hit Movie. Bourne series? Look if you want to be a political hypocrite
This will be another fail Sci-Fi. The rich preaching to us about how bad the rich are. Like making the crew tramp through a toxic Mexican Dump. Mr. Everyman who says we should support public schools then sends his daughters to Private School. Who is the target audience? OWS crowd? Make a good movie and keep your politics to yourself. District 9 does not hold up to further viewings and what pray tell was Matt Damon's last hit Movie. Bourne series? Look if you want to be a political hypocrite fine, but no one's buying anymore. It won't even come close to Pacific Rim on opening weekend.
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7:04PM on 08/09/2013
Enjoy the mindless fodder like WWZ or Pac Rim at least D9 and Elysium are deeper while still being ballsy entertaining flicks with integrity just my take but you're own obviously!
Enjoy the mindless fodder like WWZ or Pac Rim at least D9 and Elysium are deeper while still being ballsy entertaining flicks with integrity just my take but you're own obviously!
7:15PM on 08/09/2013
This film is a liberal's wet dream. Tomyg75021, don't let the lib's down votes get you down. Judging by the reviews and comments, a lot of people are seeing through this socialist propaganda just like you and I are. Ooooh, evil rich people. Let's take what they have and redistribute it to those of us who did absolutely nothing to better ourselves.

They should make this same movie from the rich people's point of view, where they are living good lives until a shit ton of parasites decide
This film is a liberal's wet dream. Tomyg75021, don't let the lib's down votes get you down. Judging by the reviews and comments, a lot of people are seeing through this socialist propaganda just like you and I are. Ooooh, evil rich people. Let's take what they have and redistribute it to those of us who did absolutely nothing to better ourselves.

They should make this same movie from the rich people's point of view, where they are living good lives until a shit ton of parasites decide to try to take what they have and turn it into the same type of shit pile they "escaped" from.
9:23PM on 08/05/2013

Fail

This will be another fail Sci-Fi. The rich preaching to us about how bad the rich are. Like making the crew tramp through a toxic Mexican Dump. Mr. Everyman who says we should support public schools then sends his daughters to Private School. Who is the target audience? OWS crowd? Make a good movie and keep your politics to yourself. District 9 does not hold up to further viewings and what pray tell was Matt Damon's last hit Movie. Bourne series? Look if you want to be a political hypocrite
This will be another fail Sci-Fi. The rich preaching to us about how bad the rich are. Like making the crew tramp through a toxic Mexican Dump. Mr. Everyman who says we should support public schools then sends his daughters to Private School. Who is the target audience? OWS crowd? Make a good movie and keep your politics to yourself. District 9 does not hold up to further viewings and what pray tell was Matt Damon's last hit Movie. Bourne series? Look if you want to be a political hypocrite fine, but no one's buying anymore. It won't even come close to Pacific Rim on opening weekend.
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3:57PM on 08/05/2013
Glad to hear the problems from the almost universally slated test screenings were fixed.
Glad to hear the problems from the almost universally slated test screenings were fixed.
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+12
11:14AM on 08/05/2013
Yay, R-rated sci-fi welcome back. If this is anywhere near the awesomeness that was District 9....so excited.
Yay, R-rated sci-fi welcome back. If this is anywhere near the awesomeness that was District 9....so excited.
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12:11PM on 08/05/2013
It's not. Not even close. (In my opinion, of course.)
It's not. Not even close. (In my opinion, of course.)
7:14PM on 08/05/2013
Well, it's the exact same plot, so we'll see....
Well, it's the exact same plot, so we'll see....
11:05AM on 08/05/2013
Let's get something out of the way, first and foremost: Sharlto Copley's beard is fucking awesome.
Let's get something out of the way, first and foremost: Sharlto Copley's beard is fucking awesome.
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10:48AM on 08/05/2013
Not so excited about Matt Damon, but I am certainly looking forward to Blomkamp's masterful directing and of course Copley being a badass with a sword.
Not so excited about Matt Damon, but I am certainly looking forward to Blomkamp's masterful directing and of course Copley being a badass with a sword.
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10:32AM on 08/05/2013
First paragraph into the review (not the synopsis) and I'm liking what I'm reading. Reading this is reassuring. My faith is restored and once again I'm excited to see this film. ....I can't wait!
First paragraph into the review (not the synopsis) and I'm liking what I'm reading. Reading this is reassuring. My faith is restored and once again I'm excited to see this film. ....I can't wait!
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8:59AM on 08/05/2013
It looks so ridiculously heavy-handed in theme, and an over-the-top misrepresentation selling hero badges to white people (BY white people... notice the Hero, as well as the writer-director, isn't one of THEM). Really, a problem film dressed in science fiction, something that's going to annoy the fuck out of me. That's a worst case scenario though, I really do hope it's not that. Fingers crossed.
It looks so ridiculously heavy-handed in theme, and an over-the-top misrepresentation selling hero badges to white people (BY white people... notice the Hero, as well as the writer-director, isn't one of THEM). Really, a problem film dressed in science fiction, something that's going to annoy the fuck out of me. That's a worst case scenario though, I really do hope it's not that. Fingers crossed.
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7:16PM on 08/05/2013
It is. Ignore the good reviews....they are from Leftist film critics who ADORE the Socialist pandering of Blomkamp. If you read the bad reviews, they are practically identical about what is wrong with this two dimensional, propaganda piece of hectoring.

But Blomkamp has a great eye for visual candy, so I'm sure it'll be appealing if you just want to turn your brain off and ignore the idiocy of the plot.
It is. Ignore the good reviews....they are from Leftist film critics who ADORE the Socialist pandering of Blomkamp. If you read the bad reviews, they are practically identical about what is wrong with this two dimensional, propaganda piece of hectoring.

But Blomkamp has a great eye for visual candy, so I'm sure it'll be appealing if you just want to turn your brain off and ignore the idiocy of the plot.
+14
7:38AM on 08/05/2013

Reviews aren't really "mixed" yet

Rottentomatoes is not an indicator for anything yet, it only has 13 reviews, this thing could still wind up anywhere from 5-95%. And most negative reviews so far are just bitching about the politics, or the subtitles and the accents. It's a fucking joke. Wait at least until thursday night before you even consider looking at rottentomatoes, it's too early.
Rottentomatoes is not an indicator for anything yet, it only has 13 reviews, this thing could still wind up anywhere from 5-95%. And most negative reviews so far are just bitching about the politics, or the subtitles and the accents. It's a fucking joke. Wait at least until thursday night before you even consider looking at rottentomatoes, it's too early.
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6:58AM on 08/05/2013
Good to know the first (not very good) rumors about the movie were wrong...
Still, considering how poorly the internet hyped movies have done this summer, I'm afraid it won't do that strong et the box office
Good to know the first (not very good) rumors about the movie were wrong...
Still, considering how poorly the internet hyped movies have done this summer, I'm afraid it won't do that strong et the box office
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6:42AM on 08/05/2013
Spectacular,but only 8/10?! It deserves more i think.its sad that many other reviewers are watching this movie with political magnifying glass
Spectacular,but only 8/10?! It deserves more i think.its sad that many other reviewers are watching this movie with political magnifying glass
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+2
6:25AM on 08/05/2013
Great review.
Great review.
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5:01AM on 08/05/2013
Be rude not to see this after he was kind enough to give us District 9. Oddly part of me also really wants to see this as the Elysium station in the trailers looked like it was based on the 'space wheel' concept, which has been knocking around for donkey's years but is still an awesome concept.
Looking forward to seeing this.
Be rude not to see this after he was kind enough to give us District 9. Oddly part of me also really wants to see this as the Elysium station in the trailers looked like it was based on the 'space wheel' concept, which has been knocking around for donkey's years but is still an awesome concept.
Looking forward to seeing this.
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3:18AM on 08/05/2013

At least tell of the fights?!

Were the fights between Kruger and Max awesome at least? Can't wait to see this.
Were the fights between Kruger and Max awesome at least? Can't wait to see this.
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3:01AM on 08/05/2013
I'm psyched!
I'm psyched!
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2:38AM on 08/05/2013
Interesting to see Sharlto playing a totally different character from his character in Disctrict 9 (but then that's what actors do if their any good). glad to see a positive review as I really wanted this to be good! Gonna go check it out next weekend! Haven't seen Pacific Rim yet either, and despite the luke warm reviews I wanna see that in theaters too!
Interesting to see Sharlto playing a totally different character from his character in Disctrict 9 (but then that's what actors do if their any good). glad to see a positive review as I really wanted this to be good! Gonna go check it out next weekend! Haven't seen Pacific Rim yet either, and despite the luke warm reviews I wanna see that in theaters too!
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7:18PM on 08/05/2013
Pacific Rim had good reviews, they just said that there wasn't enough story aside from the monster fights. This is clear that if you like Socialism (or can ignore the lecturing from the millionaires about how awful rich people are), you'll enjoy the film. If you don't like a 90 minute lecture from people who aren't as intelligent as you are, you probably won't.
Pacific Rim had good reviews, they just said that there wasn't enough story aside from the monster fights. This is clear that if you like Socialism (or can ignore the lecturing from the millionaires about how awful rich people are), you'll enjoy the film. If you don't like a 90 minute lecture from people who aren't as intelligent as you are, you probably won't.
+22
1:28AM on 08/05/2013
Mixed reviews be damned, I'm dying for some R-rated sci-fi action!
Mixed reviews be damned, I'm dying for some R-rated sci-fi action!
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1:24AM on 08/05/2013
I'm looking forward to seeing this. I've heard mixed reviews though.
I'm looking forward to seeing this. I've heard mixed reviews though.
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