I love Matt Damon, and if you’ve read my reviews of any of his movies, I usually include that sentiment at some point. Matt Damon and a big budget summertime action flick seemed like a cant-miss pairing, in my estimation. That’s why it pains me to say that I was rather underwhelmed by Elysium, his latest film set against a bleak, post-apocalyptic Los Angeles landscape. Jodie Foster (The Brave One) is also featured, and so quite naturally I thought her inclusion would bolster the movie. Unfortunately, something about the movie just failed to connect with me, as a viewer.
In the year 2154, the world has been ruined by disease, over-population, and pollution. Those who could afford it have long since moved to Elyisum, an artificial space station/planet of sorts where disease is a thing of the past. Citizens of Elysium are afforded body scan technology that eliminates all traces of disease or injury. The lawns are perfectly manicured, and the sky is always blue. Picture an entire planet that resembles The Hamptons. Meanwhile, everyone on Earth looks indigent. Everyone has dirt under their fingernails, and resources are meager. The nebulous “powers that be” have relegated humanity to menial low-paying jobs, and everyone appears to be “just getting by.” Apparently there is no middle class in the future (some would argue that it’s a current myth as well), because you’re either poor on Earth or rich on Elysium.
Damon (We Bought A Zoo) stars as Max, a hard-working ex-con who is scraping by at a shit job just to make ends meet. After being harassed and assaulted by the robot police on his way to work, he finds himself in the hospital where he runs into Frey (Alice Braga, I Am Legend), a childhood friend now working as a nurse. Max and Frey lived in the same orphanage as children, and Max pledged his friendship to her while longing for Elysium. After suffering a horrific accident at work later in the day, it is imperative that Max gets to Elysium so that he can be healed.
Illegal aliens who try to sneak into Elysium are met with force and immediate deportation. Jodie Foster’s character is Secretary Delacourt, an Elysium government official who is tasked with immigration matters and overall policing. She refuses to allow her pristine planet to be dirtied by filthy, sick immigrants who will zap her resources. If Max wants to make it to Elysium, he will have to get through her and Kruger (Sharlto Copley, District 9), an assassin who was dispatched to Earth to ward off any potential illegals seeking to breach Elysium airspace.
Elysium featured an accomplished cast and a provocative storyline. I don’t know why I felt disconnected from the movie, but I thought it was just ok. I’ve heard that director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) originally considered Eminem (8 Mile) for the role of Max, and it would have been a much smaller film. Oddly enough, that may have made it a better movie. The hallmark of a ‘popcorn’ summer flick is special effects, but those bells and whistles did nothing for me this time. I love Matt Damon and don’t fault his performance, but something about the movie was hollow, despite its earnest attempt to inspire sympathy within the viewer. My compadre with whom I saw the movie shared my sentiment. Grade: B-/C+