MRR Review: "Elysium"

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Elysium is where the wealthy and privileged live free of sickness and poverty. Earth is where everyone else lives in poverty and desolation. Max(Matt Damon) must take on an impossible mission to save himself and liberate earth.
3.5

MRR Review: "Elysium"

-- Rating: R (Violence, language)
Length: 109 min
Release date: August 9, 2013
Directed by:Neill Blomkamp
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

"Elysium" tells the story of a futuristic utopia where disease, poverty, war, and hunger are all relics of an ancient, barbaric past. The humans have evolved beyond the constraints of a planet torn apart by chaos, and they now live long, peaceful lives without having to worry about growing old or sick. The catch is that this privileged existence belongs to only the elite. The rest of humanity remains stranded on Earth, which has been stripped of its valuable resources. Humans are enslaved and kept in line by cold, unfeeling machines that make sure the humans do as they are told. Elysium is a space station where only the absurdly wealthy can live, and its leaders will do whatever they can to keep a barrier between the station and the people of Earth.

The year is 2154. Matt Damon plays Max, a lowly worker who is trapped on Earth. Max is not particularly hostile towards the residents of Elysium, but he finds himself backed into a corner when an accident threatens to claim his life in a matter of days if he doesn't get medical attention. Unfortunately for Max, the only technology capable of saving his life is on the man-made space station. With the help of a few tech-savvy acquaintances, Max becomes a one-man space shuttle, and the only thing capable of breaching the defenses of the heavily guarded space station. Much to the chagrin of Secretary Rhodes, a high-level official charged with keeping Elysium safe and separate from the world below, Max may actually stand a chance of bridging the gap between Elysium and Earth.

"Elysium" is a unique action thriller that blends science fiction with modern political themes. Secretary Rhodes is staunchly opposed to emigration of Earth's lowly citizens, arguing that it would be impossible to keep Elysium in its pristine state if the masses were allowed entrance. While Elysium has plenty of resources, Rhodes prefers to keep its residents sheltered from the truth of the horrors that exist below. The residents of Elysium lead sheltered, idyllic lives while the rest of humanity toils away and suffers. The film undoubtedly packs a political message.

There are no true villains or heroes in "Elysium." While Max plays the role of the protagonist well, he is a deeply flawed character who is forced to confront his own motivations. At the beginning of the film, Secretary Rhodes seems like an evil tyrant determined to keep the rest of humanity down, but by the end, audiences have a new appreciation for her complicated situation. The themes of responsibility and equality echo strongly throughout the entire film, making "Elysium" one of the most culturally and politically relevant movies at the box office this summer.

While "Elysium" packs plenty of action and visually striking special effects, it's the acting in the film that truly stands out. Matt Damon excels in creating a sense of urgency for Max, whose death is imminent if he fails his mission. Max finds himself responsible for the fate of the world as well as his own life, and it weighs heavily on him throughout the film. Meanwhile, Jodie Foster is remarkable as Delacourt Rhodes, the complicated politician with an icy demeanor. Delacourt makes decisions with a cool detachment sure to send shivers down viewers' spines, but she somehow remains a very human and relatable figure.

"Elysium" is an exercise in the successful blend of computer-generated imagery and realism. The filmmakers manage to create two worlds that contrast as sharply in visual terms as in daily life. Earth is grungy and somehow dark despite the overabundance of sunlight. Elysium is soft, beautiful, and full of smooth lines and elegant scenery.

"Elysium" is unlike any other science-fiction film in the box office in that it tackles some of the toughest cultural and political issues of our time. Somehow, the film manages to do so without sacrificing entertainment value or seeming preachy. In fact, the overall tone of the film is overtly positive and hopeful. The space station may have the technology Max needs to survive, but he comes to realize that humanity's best hope can still be found on Earth. "Elysium" is a must see for audiences who want to enjoy the thrills and stunning visuals of a great action film but are also hungry for a plot with engaging drama and thoughtful political commentary.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5