It’s hard to believe that Neill Blomkamp’s new sci-fi epic with a social message, Elysium, is only his second major outing on the big screen. The South African born director’s debut District 9 (2009) paved the way for this year’s release. While District 9’s story focused on a sci-fi take on South Africa’s difficult history of apartheid, Elysium deals with social injustice of a different kind.
Elysium sees “The 99%” left on the giant slum that is planet Earth, while the rich and beautiful play on the haunting, circular space station Elysium. Elysium is a tranquil paradise populated by people who all seem to have live-in hairstylists, live in Hamptons-style ‘suburbs’ and thanks to Nano-technology, can be cured of anything. Meanwhile Earth is a giant slum, where people are policed by robots and struggle through life.
Matt Damon is Max, inhabitant of Earth who dreams of Elysium. A radioactive accident leaves Max with no choice but to fight for a ticket to Elysium where his condition can be quickly cured. Black market shuttles to Elysium rarely arrive, but Max is willing to try anything for his chance to be cured; taking on dangerous tasks for criminal with a conscience Spider (Wanger Moura).
His childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga) is soon drawn into the mix, and while he struggles to save her and her sick child (Emma Tremblay) there is a refreshing lack of sexual tension or even chemistry between them. This noble desire to save his friend allows the plot to progress without becoming stuck in the quagmire that can be hastily written romances in an action film.
Despite Damon’s A-list status, Sharlto Copley steals the show as sleeper agent Kruger who is called in to track down Max. His South African accent coupled with his unfailing sense of comic timing just hits the nail on the head, creating a menacing yet oddly likeable villain.