Elysium (MA 15+)
WE all have a dream, something that we believe will justify the purpose of our creation as a human being. Some go on to win the Noble Prize, others become doting parents, and in one way or another we all get what's coming to us.
Death is one of a few certainties in life, suffering a possibility for many. Neill Blomkamp is, in the early stages of his directing career, expressing uneasiness about the level of suffering in our world.
Blomkamp's anticipated return to the big screen following his 2009 debut District 9 again deals with an unsettled Earth. This time he takes us into the year 2154 as he sees it, showing a Los Angeles littered with disease and chaos. The elite of human society have escaped to Elysium, a constructed living space outside the Earth's atmosphere. A place where sickness can be healed, it is a glimmer of hope just out of the world's reach.
Max (Matt Damon) never stops wondering. As a child, it was a beautiful star in the sky. A tainted view after life as a thief gives him little hope of achieving the dream of getting there. But it is desperation that finally gives Max his way out. He becomes an important part of criminal Spider's (Wagner Moura) plan to extract data that could allow any human onto Elysium.
Blomkamp's script is careful to remind us there can still be trouble in paradise. Perfection takes a stranglehold at Elysium, defence secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) particularly feeling the strain. Her actions in working with rogue agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) are reckless, and the stability of the habitat is shaken with the advance of Spider and Max's plan.
It's a while before the story kicks into gear, but Blomkamp's script works in building up to the main event. Max's desperation for change is shown delicately through flashbacks to his childhood, remembering teachings from those who looked after him and the joy of being with his best friend Frey (Alice Braga) whom he still loves.
Regressing to a no less harder but simpler time as a youth is how Max deals with the pressures at hand. While taking Spider's job was initially for his own benefit, he comes to realise that helping others is an important addition to the deal. On that turn in the story, it becomes a story of planetary survival against the fittest.
This underdog story has similar post-apocalyptic themes to other films released throughout 2013, but its strength lies in its psyche of brutality. Humans fighting each other has already changed Earth more than once, but the sheer discomfort from Elysium residents of any diseased Earthling encroaching is enough to make you squirm with discontent at this developed class system.
Blomkamp balances flashbacks with multiple action sequences well, not adhering to a constant style to keep you on your toes. He gets good performances out of Damon and Foster, but his return to working with fellow South African Copley gives the film a creepily outlandish, near psychotic villain. It's for the film's benefit as the hopes and fears of Earth dwindle on a corrupt few on both sides of the coin.
Now screening at Reading Cinemas