Elysium (dir. Neil Blomkamp, 2013)

Watched today at Vue.

I’m genuinely pleased that someone gave Blomkamp the money to make this film – his District 9 was a bold splicing of sci-fi with social commentary, and one of the surprise hits of 2009. Elysium could be seen as more formulaic, but make no mistake – when it comes to giving audiences a warning, Blomkamp is sharper than a bonesaw.

Set in 2154, the world is a burned out, desolate place. Stricken by disease, hunger, and poverty, the remaining inhabitants can only wistfully look to a space born habitat – Elysium. A playground for the super-wealthy, in which cocktail and tea parties are held and disease can be cured in a second, the distance between the haves and have-nots has never been pushed so graphically on screen. On Earth, Max (Matt Damon) is a factory worker who suddenly becomes terminally ill. His only chance of survival is to reach Elysium – but there’s a price to be paid. Because on Elysium, Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster in perhaps her most sinister role to date), is desperately trying to keep the inhabitants of Earth out, even if this means a potential political coup.

This is where Blomkamp, a native Afrikaans, excels. Its not in the set pieces of death and destruction – although the fight scenes are well choreographed and Sharlto Kopley, as a rogue agent, is clearly having the time of his life – its in the message embedded in the script. The wealthy, Blomkamp warns, may not feel obliged to help those in need – instead, they might just shut their doors, and bolt them. And through the character of Delacourt, you see fear – fear that protecting your own kind comes before helping others. But Elysium is also a metaphor – it is a world of fantasy. This film asks can certain lifestyles really be maintained, when the truth of inequality is staring people in the face? Clearly, much more money is on the screen than in Blomkamp’s previous film, and the hiring of two Hollywood names for the lead roles only confirms this. But, this is a blockbuster with guts, and brains.  Brutal, clever, and gripping, Elysium is more than a sci fi thriller. Much more.