(Film Review) Elysium: relevant story, but this is no District 9.


Rating: 6.8/10


The year is 2154; the poor live in the ruins of a destroyed Earth while the rich enjoy an idyllic existence in a man-made satellite. The medical pods of Elysium enable the rich to never get sick or old, while people on Earth struggle with crumbling medical services. If you think this is somehow related to healthcare and immigration reform in the United States… The movie will make those links for you. Over and over again.


Don’t get me wrong. This is not a bad movie. I appreciate the fact that Blomkamp is trying to mainstream these issues to people who may have not sat through an argument for immigration reform. Having said that, there is something about the overtness of this allegory that rubs me the wrong way. This seems almost heavy handed, compared to the subtlety of District 9. Most of the actors “from” Earth are played by Latin actors (Wagner Moura, Alice Braga, Diego Luna…) with the exception of Damon and they speak Spanish.


The movie looks nice (yes, I’m willing to let the shaking cam bits slide) and the grimy, dirty futuristic aspect of Earth is dramatically different from the cool and elegant Elysium. The acting is mostly good. Alice Braga tries to bring more to the table than just being “the girl” and Damon really fleshes out what could be a relatively narrow hero character arc. Jodie Foster brings gravitas to what could be a very caricatured role; however, her accent is bizarre and very distracting. In one or two scenes she can deliver perfect French while her default “English” sounds like a generic Germanic Bond-villain accent. Sharlto Copley is amazing and as creepy as the come as a South African mercenary.


Moreover, this is genuinely an enjoyable movie, but one that the more you think about it, the more you are able to poke holes in the plot. For instance, if people in Elysium never get old, are children able to grow up? In one scene, Jodie Foster is defending her zero tolerance actions on her mother instincts and trying to protect the place she build for her children and their children when they grow… Would that even be possible? If people are coming to Elysium just to use the pods, why not have a couple on Earth and don’t have to worry?


In the end, Elysium is enjoyable, but it had potential to be a much better movie. As movies go, it has far more depth than your average blockbuster sci-fi, but after movies like Inception or even District 9, just being a little better than the average doesn’t cut it anymore, especially for Blomkamp.


First posted in Post-Production Reviews. Link to the film’s IMDB page.

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