Language : English | Running Time : 109 Minutes | Director : Neill Blomkamp
It takes about 19 minutes to go away from a disease infested, polluted and overpopulated earth to life enhancing, beautiful and disease free Elysium. In 19 minutes life can go from being a burden to one of comfort, satisfaction and richness. Who wouldn’t want to take such a ride? Everyone living on earth, suffering from one ailment or the other or simply because there is nothing on earth that is any good, want to go to Elysium. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is also one of the people who has dreamt of reaching Elysium since he has been a child. Elysium is not for everyone. It’s a place designed for the rich by the rich. You have to pay your way to be there, to live there and not everyone is invited. The earth doesn’t have a government ruling it by staying on earth but has the control switches in Elysium. The political machinery isn’t campaigning to people on earth but in Elysium, among the elite, among the unaffected.
Neill Blomkamp introduces us to Elysium with a certain eeriness that is both awe inducing and also bone chilling. The work that’s gone on to make the look for Earth in 2154 and Elysium is astonishing and Los Angeles looks like Mexico City with more favelas in it than can be found in Rio Di Janerio. The reason I start off by talking about the design here is because the movie works due to this design. The ideas that come out through the movie are workings of this design. The concept of Elysium and the degeneracy of earth give solid ground for the film to work its plot with. In today’s society, we have the poor trying to fit in with the rich, trying to get the best healthcare but not being able to because they can’t afford it. We see people unemployed and wandering on the streets, trying to live another day but those among the rich holding their champagnes and sunbathing outside their lavish homes. When Max Da Costa is having a conversation with the robots on Earth,is trying to explain that he was wrongly charged, we are reminded of what we face in government offices. Neill Blomkamp brings themes of society that we might be able to connect to and that is why the idea of Elysium works.
Max Da Costa, an orphan, dreams of one day buying his way to Elysium. He grew up as the tough kid and has had his share of trouble with the law. Now, he is trying to mend his ways and travel the good road. He works in a robots production line and is quite a popular figure in the streets. Like his friend Julio(Diego Luna) says, he was a legend in the streets. If Julio acts as reference to his criminal past, then Frey(Alice Braga), his companion in the past and his love interest, is a reference to his desire to be better. Neill Blomkamp doesn’t give Max Da Costa anything better than what we already have of a stereotype for an action star. Thankfully, his nemesis, Kruger played by Sharlto Copley,the star of District 9, brings some much-needed charisma to the film. Kruger breathes and talks nasty; bringing some vehemence to the proceedings. In one of the most gruelling scenes of the movie, we have Kruger slap Frey and at the same time tell Frey’s daughter to close her eyes as he is doing it. It isn’t because he has a good side that he asks the girl to close her eyes but the kind of shades that the character develops due to just that one sentence; it makes Kruger’s character all the more enchanting. Even though we have Neill Blomkamp bring political themes very intelligently into the design of the film, he doesn’t really build a great plot with the politicians. A petty plot with an underused Jodie Foster as Delacourt, the Secretary Of Defense, is what we have to make do with.
Neill Blompkamp takes his time getting us in sync with the characters but sadly, these aren’t fresh characters and the plot points are standard action movie plot points. It is not something that leaps off the scream and enthrals us but it is quite intelligent in the way it handles all that is against it. When the script and its characters are not exciting enough, we have images and music by Ryan Amon pounding and beating, making as sit up and take notice. In a way, Elysium has the pulse right. It never feels to be wrongly paced or a bore to sit through. When the characters became boring, I had other things on-screen occupy me. It is very interesting to see the way Neill Blomkamp manages that.
If Kruger is the most exciting character from the “bad” side, then giving him company from the good side is Spider(Wagner Moura, the lead of The Elite Squad franchise). Spider’s the bad guy in the good side, another one of those standard action movie characters. He is the one who helps the lead character reach his destiny but at the same time uses him for his own gain. He is the character that we can’t help smiling at. Wagner Moura brings a certain kind of freshness to the character. He is the most important person on earth, a rebel with more shady dealing to keep count of and someone who shows the finger at Elysium. The acting in Elysium is good throughout, it has seasoned actors in William Fichtner, Jodie Foster, Matt Damon but it is Sharlto Copley and Wagner Moura who steal the show. They are interesting and bring the right emotions in us.
For an action movie with a template, Blomkamp’s action scenes have also fallen prey to the CGI era where you hardly notice what actually happens in the sequence. I prefer my action scenes where I know which hand is moving where and not a just a flurry of people moving. In the all-important showdown between Kruger and Max, I hardly understood the way the action was developing, except that it was a flurry of movements. Even the other action sequences rarely leave template aside and be imaginative. Again, if it wasn’t for the idea behind Elysium, the uber-cool city and the run-down design of Los Angeles, the movie would just be another action movie that followed a set template. Once again, I talk about the design of the film. It is really that brilliant. The intelligence in the design and pacing of the film is what makes Elysium a good film. Even though the movie isn’t as fresh and brilliant as his District 9, Neill Blomkamp has certainly delivered a good film. Some more ambition and Elysium might have just been the most interesting blockbuster film in the last couple of years.