Science fiction is a genre that is constantly used to explore various issues and themes that are extremely relevant to the audience of the time. For example, Star Trek challenged race issues giving audiences the first ever televised inter racial kiss. More recently, Battlestar Galactica explored issues around religion and war in a time where conflict in the Middle East was dominating the worlds news. The list goes on and on. Neill Blomkamp’s last film, District 9, tackled issues of xenophobia and the South African apartheid with great success launching both Blomkamp and lead actor Sharlto Copley onto the Hollywood scene.
In the near future earth is ravaged and overpopulated with disease, violence and poverty. The rich and powerful live on a large space habitat orbiting earth free from the problems they left behind. The 1% lives in luxury with special medical machines that can treat all illnesses in minutes. Max (Matt Damon), who only has days to live, gets involved with a scheme to sneak onto Elysium which throws him into a huge political conspiracy involving the Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) and rouge agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley).
While Elysium shys away from issues as specific as the South African apartheid it instead deals with larger more broad issues of class divides, immigration, the 1% and health care. With movements like Occupy Wall Street and Obamacare being a major discussion in the USA over the past few years this movie is dealing with issues that are new and are still in the public consciousness. In a recent interview Blomkamp recently said that the film wasn’t his prediction of the future but rather his interpretation of modern day society. The film is pretty much a massive middle finger to the American healthcare system and the inequalities found in modern day society.
Like District 9 the film blends the world we live in with things we are familiar with from other Sci Fi films. However even with the space shuttles and the fantastic looking police droids the world feels scarily familiar. It feels like a fully fleshed out world. The visual effects in the film are stunning and for a 15 rated film it really pushes the boundaries. It has some of the goriest effects I have ever scene that it makes Saw look tame.
Matt Damon is, as usual, a solid lead actor. He manages to pull off a troubled man whose intentions are pure but his situation forces him into making poor decisions. Sharlto Copley plays crazy rouge agent Kruger who is at times both extremely scary and creepy. This is a complete departure from the friendly pencil pusher Wikus van de Merwe who he played in District 9. However one of the biggest disappointments is Jodie Foster who acts well but with an accent that is all over the place. I think the accent is supposed to be ambiguous to make it ‘international’ but it is still distracting.
Overall this film is worth a watch. It isn’t as good as District 9 but it is still a great Sci Fi film that isn’t scared to at least try to challenge issues. It proves that Blomkamp is a stellar Sci Fi director who is able to handle the genre.