August 11, 2013

Shredding The Subtle: The High Impact Power Of Elysium

"Elysium" is the summer movie you've been waiting for. I mean I feel kind of bad putting the "summer" tag in front of it because while it is extremely entertaining and packed with awesome action and cutting edge visual effects, it is the film's political courage that elevates it to the next level. This is a film that speaks to real life issues like immigration, health-care, national security, and corporate power. director Neill Blomkamp's last film "District 9" also touched on politics and social issues and he proves with this one that in addition to being a masterful director with a distinct visual style, he's not afraid to show us how he feels about the present by using the timeless power of science fiction spectacle.

The center of the film is Matt Damon. He plays an ex-convict turned factory worker who lives in the polluted slums of a futuristic (2154 to be exact) Los Angeles. After a factory accident leaves him with radiation sickness, he makes a pact with underworld figure Spider (Wagner Moura) which guarantees him a trip to Elysium. He also picks a metal exo-skeleton to help him with the job. Sharing a name with the Greek Afterlife, Elysium is a futuristic space station where the richest of earth's citizens live a trouble free life complete with perfect weather and medical pods that cure all diseases. Elysium's Secretary of State is Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and she calls the shots behind the scenes in a way that would make Dick Cheney proud. When Max and Spyder somehow get involved in one of her schemes, she sends psychopath special agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) after them. That's all I want to tell you, but the film does have some great twists to the narrative all the while staying emotionally fixed on Max's struggle.

By far the most magical aspect of the film is the incredible world that Blomkamp and his team have created. Similar to the classic "Minority Report," the world of the film comes across as a futuristic version of our own. Tiny details like how the droids in the film move, the futuristic weapons tech, and the focus on physical augmentation all make the film both extremely realistic and familiar. Because it comes across as familiar, the action scenes, and there are many, are brutal and exciting. It doesn't matter if it's how a futuristic weapon makes bodies explode or how a luxury space shuttle reminds you of a Mercedes couple, the action and world design hits home.

Speaking of hitting home, the film doesn't hold back when it comes to its political beliefs. With only the elite living on Elysium and the poor stuck down on earth, the film shows the extreme end of the belief that 1% of the world has all the wealth. Other ideas like access to health care, corporate greed & corruption, and immigration are all over the film. It's far from subtle, but the way I see it, we don't exactly live in subtle times these days. When it comes to most issues, people are either in one camp or the other, with no love being shown for the middle. Elysium, so firm in it's beliefs, is not in the middle. It's firmly in the left and shoots these ideas at you with the force of the many futuristic flesh exploding guns featured in the film.

I'm a sucker for all things Sci-Fi. I would probably pay pretty good money to just see space-ships fly across a movie screen with great sound. And while the movie does have some cool space-ships it also has a simple but effective story to tell, and it does it very very well. I saw it three days ago and I'm still thinking about both the emotional ending and all the ridiculously badass fight scenes. Any movie that can give you the emotions, the action, and ideas that challenge you is one that works very well in my book. It's a fantastic film and as I was walking out I was thinking how I can't wait to see what Blomkamp does next. The countdown begins now.


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