Style that still lets the bride shine...
DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
CAST: Matt Damon, Jody Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, William Fichtner, Diego Luna
CLASSIFICATION: 16 LV
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
DIRECTOR Neill Blomkamp has stuck to what he knows – a sci-fi storyline with a healthy dose of good special effects and excellent sets. Toss in a couple of in-jokes to keep South Africans giggling, and he is on to a good thing.
Thematically Blomkamp references the now rather than a possible future, though the story is set in 2154.
The divide between the rich and poor has escalated to the point that the rich have deserted Earth for a satellite called Elysium, living the life of instant health care, pretty frocks and robots to do their every bidding.
Damon tackles the Everyman role of Max, a factory worker who just cannot get a break. He turns to an old friend in crime, people smuggler Spider (Luna), for help and suddenly he finds himself on the way to Elysium, where they really don’t want him.
Elysium’s ruthless Secretary Delacourt (Foster) is having no riff-raff come near her pristine home, so she dispatches gun-for-hire Kruger (Copley), which is when the fun and games begin.
The film has a strong social justice component to it, tackling class separation as it does, which is the hallmark of most good sci-fi – it asks a fictional “what if” question by giving us a situation just slightly removed from our own because of advanced science, making you question your own thoughts on the subject, and by extension humanity.
A tiny percentage of humanity living the good life at the labour and expense of the huddled masses is how we live right now, but most people don’t think about it – so there’s the message.
The strange thing about this film when compared to District 9 (which made you question your own ideas about refugees and xenophobia) is that it does not have as many people to empathise with as Blomkamp’s previous film. This is surprising, since that film was at least halfway peopled by aliens and this one is all about humans.
Damon is too perfect as the Everyman chararacter since he doesn’t have individual quirks or faults that the audience can empathise with. He is selfish, and then suddenly has to save the world, and we still don’t care.
As with his District 9 performance, Copley is channelling a very specific South African stereotype that might go over the head of outsiders – this time it’s a South African Special Forces recce- type complete with south-of-Joburg accent – so we South Africans get an extra dimension in a character we recognise, but he is a creepy bad guy.
Foster’s Delacourt is ruthless (albeit with a weird accent that is neither French nor Canadian and definitely not American), but she never does more than order other people around. The film’s look and feel are strong – the action sequences are believable and the special effects merge seamlessly with the gritty and very realistics sets – and this is decidedly Blomkamp’s strength, deftly painting a dystopian picture that resonates with the here and now.
But, the emotional core is missing as is the originality of narrative of D9. Still, it does work for the most part, especially for those in search of lots of sci-fi action, complete with graphic nastiness of faces getting ripped off.
Yes, you have been warned.
If you liked I Am Legend or The Day the Earth Stood Still you will like this.