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Elysium (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 102 minutes.

Not for children.

This is yet another apocalyptic view of the future, this time mid-22nd-century, 2154 to be exact. As with the others of its ilk, it pictures the future bleakly. Earth is overpopulated, controlled by computers and robots, a dusty, dirty place teeming with people.

Circling the Earth above is a space station called Elysium where privileged people live in luxury and palatial homes, all of which are waterside. Matt Damon, unfortunately, lives on earth. Lucky for her, Jodie Foster lives on Elysium and runs “homeland security”...ruthlessly. Matt is a worker, lucky enough to have a job. Unfortunately, he suffers a disaster that gives him a terminal condition. While Jodie is the head of homeland security, she is not without her problems, too, an administration she doesn’t like and the feeling is mutual.

The basis of the story is that Matt has to get to Elysium to cure himself, and the daughter of his love interest, Alice Braga in a fine performance, who has leukemia. This is not an easy task.

Written and directed by Neil Blomkamp, who was also responsible for District 9 a few years ago, he keeps the action moving. This is a fast-paced, violent film with quite a few F-bombs. Unfortunately, it’s marred by a Terrence Malick-like, pace killing scene near the end in which Damon reflects on his life. Like Malick’s scene in The Thin Red Line (1998) in which he had World War II stop in mid-battle while one of his main characters slowly dies on the battlefield, it is so slow and boring it totally destroys the fine pace that the film has maintained throughout.

In addition to the terrific pace, the music by Ryan Amon is especially effective, and Sharlto Copley gives a terrific performance as a real bad guy.

As action films go, this is okay. I just wish that we’d get a sabbatical from these huge, expensive action films that are comprised 50% of special effects. But apparently that’s where the big studios think the money is. I wonder how All About Eve (1950) or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) or A Man For All Seasons (1966), movies that relied on character and talk and ideas and acting, would fare today, if they could get the OK from studio bosses to even go into production.

August 1, 2013