Movie Review: Elysium (2013)

Elysium, written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, is a sci-fi action movie, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. The movie has not been widely acclaimed and has been awarded with 1 win out of 10 nominations (no major award nominations).

The film is set in 2154 in the remains of Los Angeles. We learn that there are two classes of people: the wealthy who live on a man-made space station (Elysium) and the rest (or the poor) are stranded on what-looks-to-be an apocalyptic earth. This polarization of the two worlds is a central theme of this movie with the film also aiming to explore the themes of politics, healthcare, migration and wealth distribution.

Matt Damon plays Max, a former car thief who’s currently on parole and working in a factory producing police robots. The beginning of the movie sees him trying to earn a living the ‘right’ way by being a law-abiding citizen but his plans are soon ruined. From then on, the film becomes more about saving everyone (in the most utopian way possible). Matt Damon did a decent job in his role, considering the flaws with the script and general directing.

Jodie Foster, as Defense Secretary (of Elysium) Delacourt, provided a solid performance that was both commanding and intimidating. However, her character development (this could be argued for all characters) was two-dimensional – far from sufficient for the character of her importance and ruthlessness. I also noticed that her accent changed throughout the movie and even appeared to be dubbed.

The standout performance was by Sharlto Copley, who played Kruger, a secret, notorious (and deadly) special agent and soon-to-be Max’s arch-nemesis. His character was the most lively and brought so much energy, unmatched by the rest of the cast (but that, again, could be due to issues with the script). The best scenes of the movie were the ones where Kruger was left to do what it does best.

Overall, there weren’t any real problems with acting. Elysium had a strong cast, a good plot idea, good concepts and quality special effects, but something was missing. It felt like the movie should be more rewarding and should be something more but in the end it didn’t quite deliver. Mark Kermode put it best: “I liked the ideas, I liked the director, I liked the cast, I liked the design” but the movie was “stodgy”.

Elysium lacked something substantial to bind all the different parts of the movie, from costumes and special effects to concepts and acting. The director Neill Blomkamp himself admitted that “the script just wasn’t there; the story wasn’t fully there“. In the beginning Elysium aims to be a political parable about the different social classes but soon becomes a straightforward action shooter. Towards the end of the movie, I was paying more attention to the special effects, concepts and ideas of the movie rather than the characters.

Elysium has a simple plot with a simple, predictable progression (and in general, it was quite an “ordinary” film) but by no means it is a bad movie and shouldn’t be avoided. The IMDB rating of 6.6 (more or less the average rating) is rather an accurate indicator of its quality. It is flawed but it shouldn’t be called a disappointment even though the director admitted that he “didn’t make a good enough film”. Although it did not live up to the expectations and did not achieve the impact it sought to, it is at least a decent sci-fi film with nice imagery, plenty of action and an interesting concept. At worst, it is an entertaining, straight-forward action movie that is easy to watch.

However, the film did make me wonder about the future medicine, especially the medical pods. What will the world be like when all ailments, illnesses and even the most horrid cases of cosmetic damage can be cured or restored within seconds? How will the world cope with immortality, since the pods are able to stop the ageing process? It also made me think how realistic would it be if everyone was granted a citizenship of Elysium? It is unclear how many people inhabit the earth as the film only focuses on the population of Los Angeles, but would Elysium lose its peacefulness, peace and perfection if everyone became a citizen? These discourses do need to be thought of.

If you watched this movie, read Seven Unanswered Questions We Still Have About Elysium for some interesting points of discussion.



One thought on “Movie Review: Elysium (2013)

  1. “Stodgy” is a good description of this film. It has a lot of interesting components, but it’s a completely forgettable film. I thought Matt Damon was miscast and Jodie Foster was under-utilized.

    However, I really enjoyed your review. 🙂


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