Film Review: Elysium dir. Neill Blomkamp

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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.

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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. 

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Looper Dir. Rian Johnson (2012)

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I know it’s been out on DVD a while but I’m finally getting round to watching it again! So in celebration I’m reposting my original review . . . enjoy!

This innovative take on the classic mob story sees Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) struggling with navigating the consequences of time travel as he hunts his future self (Bruce Willis). With the help of some contacts and a few prosthetics, Gordon-Levitt is expertly transformed into a young Willis – whilst this is a daunting prospect for any young actor, he rises to the challenge in a well studied performance, and Willis’ intonation and trademark stare are replicated with considerable ease.

Looper also examines the story of Sara (Emily Blunt), a young mother struggling to raise her difficult and intelligent child Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Blunt successfully captures the sheer terror of a mother whose child is threatened, while maintaining a veneer of strength. As their story unravels we realize there is a whole other, disturbing element to the story. This lifts Looper from regular sci-fi to intriguing thriller, adding pathos to what could be your run of the mill ‘shoot ‘em up’.

One of the most haunting sequences is a brutal, silent torture, which hangs in the air as we watch unable to break the haunting quiet. A feeling that is echoed in some of the more controversial scenes, which do make for uncomfortable viewing but only add to the strength of the film.

Acting aside, the plot would stand up perfectly without the support of the star-studded cast: mob story and sci-fi are intertwined seamlessly with a surprising supernatural element.  ‘Total Film’ has cited Looper as ‘our generation’s Matrix’: this is not as far-fetched as it might sound. With a perfect balance of action, intrigue and genuine human emotion, Looper might just be a classic in the making.

Behind the Scenes – Star Trek ‘Into Darkness’

I’m basically treating this film as JJ Abrams’ audition to convince me personally he is up to the job of tackling Star Wars . . .

Because if I’m honest his first Star Trek effort didn’t fill me with confidence.

Saying that this one looks awesome, definitely one to see in 3D.

Release date: 17th May 2013