Elysium (2013)

Cover art:


Elysium (2013)Starring Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, Jodie Foster, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Alice Braga, Diego Luna

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp’s third world perspective is still very much intact with his second entry in dystopian sci-fi, the thrilling and impactful Elysium. The perpetual war between the haves and have nots has rarely, if ever, been depicted with this much visual flare coupled with such a feeling of absolute desperation. Amidst all of its slumdog majesty, Elysium also makes a smaller point through its lead character, Max (Matt Damon), showing that self-interest alone will not result in your survival.

In a move that Ayn Rand would probably be proud of, the uber rich move off world to a luxurious space station in the late 22nd century, subsequently abandoning an overpopulated, over-polluted Earth (it still looks pretty from where they’re sitting, though). Max is a legendary car thief (Fast & Furious Seventeen tie-in, perhaps?) trying to stay on the straight and narrow working at a highly dangerous plant facility that manufactures the robots who now police the streets and protect the wealthy. A chance encounter with a childhood friend, Frey (Alice Braga), and the romance he hopes will spring is the only good thing the guy has going. Then he gets a lethal dose of radiation, causing an epic chain of events that will change the course of history.

Best be sure, Matt Damon brings it in this movie, and all of the actor’s best qualities are present: he’s charming, relatable, and proves again why he may be the everyman’s action hero. His reputation as an action star has already been firmly established with the Bourne films, a fact that should help the audience take the leap of faith needed when Max becomes a crude, cyber-Frankenstein equipped with the same tech that the military machines have. The pacing then suddenly shifts from slow, homeworld routine to breakneck space adventure, giving a real sense of urgency that’s driven by Max’s total desperation and his will to live. Max sees his survival as the ultimate middle finger to a world that doesn’t really care if he lives or dies. The revolution recruits and creates him, not the other way around.

The larger struggle against the powers-that-be is personified by the corporate shrewdness of Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her rabid dog, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) – a man who hates the establishment too but tolerates it so long as he’s allowed to run amok within it. Foster is cold, intelligent, cultured, and rebellious even, but her performance also captures the underlining fear of all the residents of Elysium. As for Sharlto Copley as the radicalized agent Kruger, few will even recognize him as the spineless inspector from Blomkamp’s first film District 9. He is a true force of nature here – equipped with an electronic forcefield weapon and wielding a samurai sword, he proves to be virtually unstoppable. You might be rooting for Max, but you’re going to want to pretend to be Kruger when you’re at home later in your backyard.

As for Blomkamp’s vision, his films continue to look like no one else’s. The first establishing shots of Elysium show the population and its endless constructs as a form of bacteria sweeping across the planet. But there is still a level of awe and beauty present because of Blomkamp’s extreme attention to detail and his understanding of how certain images impact the viewer. This is set in the not so distant future, but the world of Elysium isn’t suggesting that this is where the human race is going to end up if we keep going down the path of self-destruction; it’s showing us that we’ve already arrived there.

This is a man who used to walk two miles in Johannesburg, South Africa, each month to buy the new issue of Fangoria, after all. Blomkamp has seen similar conditions to those depicted in the film, and his perspective is completely unique in the world of cinema because of it. What’s brilliant about his point of view is that he doesn’t let his world view overwhelm his boundless imagination, resulting in thought-provoking science fiction that’s both hard to look at and absolutely gorgeous to behold at the same time.

4 out of 5

Discuss Elysium in the comments section below!

Get this site 100% Ad Free Support Us on Patreon!
Get Your Box of Dread Now
*US Residents Only .

Drew Tinnin

  • nazo

    From these comments, I don’t think I’ll be paying full price to see this in theaters.

  • MouthForWar

    Can I just ask WHAT it is about the third act that has everyone in the comments here upset? I thought it was fine… not perfect, and some definite shortcuts were taken in terms of the writing, but the third act of District 9 had similar problems (and like Elysium, it kinda just turned into a big dumb action movie during the end once they escape the slums and get the robot and everything). Like I said, it wasn’t an amazing third act, but it was still good enough and did the story justice, IMO.

    • Drew Blood

      Definitely agree MFW. In the edit, maybe Blomkamp thinks it’s worth it to sacrifice some character moments to keep the pace up. It is a sci-fi action film, after all. It’s not Solaris.

  • frank_dracman

    Why are people saying the first 2/3 were good? The whole plot was stupid from the start. The visuals and tone were nice, but the plot and very premise of the movie was eyerollingly bad. Yes, that’s a word now.

    • LSD Zombie

      I disagree. I thought the premise was awesome. The execution however, was terrible. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film that cares so little about defining characters and the world that they inhabit. Everyone and everything was painfully one-dimensional. The bad guys were simply bad and the good guys were simply good! It was borderline cartoonish.

      It was cool seeing The Citadel from the Mass Effect games in a feature film, but if you’re going to include something incredible like that, make it feel like a genuine place; not just window dressing.

      I also thought that the pacing was ruined by irradiating Max in the beginning. At that point, it’s a mad dash for Max to get to Elysium. Which forces the writer and director (Blomkamp) to sacrifice devoting time to fleshing out the characters and creating a more believable sci-fi setting.

      And yeah, the third act involving the computer program was really lazy and stupid.

  • Uncle Creepy

    Yeah not a fan of this flick it all. Foster’s accent was ridiculous to say the least. I didn’t think the shakey cam was that bad and the first two acts were solid. The third act is sad really. It’s like watching something great completely fall apart over the course of 25 mins.

    • Drew Blood

      For me, the third act was leading up to a showdown with Max and Kruger and that battle delivered. All of humanity wasn’t suddenly saved at the end, but Max’s actions created positive change. It was a start. What’s funny is I never really dwelled upon the politics involved. Moviegoers sometimes tend to put their own agendas into films that aren’t necessarily the same as the filmmaker’s beliefs. I wasn’t really interested in that angle so I wound up enjoying it on a purely entertainment level. And this movie was very entertaining, especially compared to some of the other summer blockbusters.

  • The Unknown Murderer

    I liked the film just fine except for the Shakycam. I had a splitting headache walking out of the theater. If this had been in 3D, I can’t imagine how I would have felt then.

  • Foywonder

    Decent but unexceptional movie utterly destroyed by one of the most bone-headed third acts in recent memory. Anything “thought-provoking” got completely self-destructed the moment Blomkamp decided to sacrifice the plot for an idiotic twist that’s just an excuse for him to revel in meaningless video game violence.

    • The Woman In Black

      Yeah, I’m pretty much in the same boat. It started off really well but lost me about midway through. I’m not sure what it was exactly that I didn’t care for, but mostly, I just didn’t care… about Max, Frey & her kid, or Delacourt’s agenda. I can suspend disbelief with the best of ’em, but the whole thing was so implausible I couldn’t engage with it. Plus, it definitely needed more William Fichtner. And wtf was up with Foster’s accent? Talk about distracting!


    Just caught the matinee and feel a little guilty this one deserved a full price! No sophmore slump for Blomkamp I loved District 9 this to me even surpasses it.We get developed characters that we actually care about the performances by all were stellar,especially Damon as the guy we can relate to and Copley in a scene chewing performance delivering one of the best villains in recent memory,Foster was the tits too as the cuttthroat politician .Blomkamp has balls and his vision of two seperate societies one of the diseased, overpopulated planet and Elysium where the rich flourish disease free was richly brought to life truly a beautiful the effects by Weca are amazing! I bought in to this future world and the plot actually had a purpose with something to say about our modern society while still being balls to the wall entertaining and affecting its audience. Blomkamp delivers another classic go check it out i can’t recommend enough !!!

    • Drew Blood

      yeah, I loved seeing it in IMAX as well. Really highlighted the attention to detail. It’s not perfect but I prefer not to make it a political allegory. Glad you dug it.

  • frank_dracman

    I agree with exactly one point from this review- it was hard to look at. Jesus Christ, did anyone else get a little seasick? Shakycams never bother me but my eyes were darting all over the place trying to see what the fuck was going on.

    Damon was flat, dull and incredibly average. I didn’t buy his character for a second. The plot was beyond preposterous and (SPOILERS) oddly reminiscent of Johnny Mnemonic. This was an extremely disappointing movie all around. I had high hopes for Blomkamp, but this is just flat out dumb. No subtly to be found and very predictable.

    I’d save your money, and I hate to say that. You’ll have a better time watching District 9 again. This will go down in the history books as the summer of shitty Sci-Fi movies.

    • Drew Blood

      Some of the action was a little hard to decipher and Blomkamp definitely has a little room to improve when it comes to fight choreography.

  • kiddcapone

    Does it have any giant CGI robots fighting giant CGI monsters? That’s all I give a shit about, bring on that childlike cartoonish mayhem! Interesting characters and storyline need not apply…

    • nazo

      You say ‘childlike cartoonish mayhem’ like that’s a bad thing. I don’t get it..

    • Rottenjesus

      It has Matt Damon’s dead eyes, Jodie Foster with a crappy French accent and LOTS of shaky cam. Three things that PACIFIC RIM didn’t have. So yeah, interestingly dull characters and a muddled storyline need not apply.

      • The Woman In Black

        You thought it was French? It seemed more German to me – like maybe they were riffing on Angela Merkel. But in either event, you’re dead right about it being crappy.

      • kiddcapone

        SOLD! I’ll be seeing We’re the Millers on Friday instead of Elysium.


    Didn’t expect all the negativity for this one glad I enjoyed more then you guys !!!