The Immigration Space Travel Ban: 'Elysium' Review

Updated on January 8, 2019
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

The year is 2154. Elysium is the name of a technologically advanced space habitat that quietly orbits Earth. There, humans have access to the maximum perks life can offer. The best food, entertainment, and state-of-the-art health system guarantee an optimal quality of life and luxury lifestyle.

Of course, only the privileged 1% lives in Elysium. The remaining 99% lives in the overpopulated, collapsed and polluted Earth. The population is to a greater or lesser extent malnourished, sick and/or living in really precarious conditions. And every day, they look up at the sky and watch that unreachable paradise where the elite live comfortably as a cruel reminder of a better life that is impossible to obtain.

Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) has not had an easy life. A former car thief on probation, he has decided to change his life and dedicate himself to the hard and honest work at the assembly line at Armadyne Corp, the company behind the construction of Elysium and practically all the weaponry used by the state.

An unfair job accident leaves Max with a horrible and lethal radiation poisoning, without any possibility of medical treatment. Without any odds to survive following the rules, Max decides, along with his mischievous partners Julio (Diego Luna) and Spider (Wagner Moura), to smuggle himself into Elysium.

Of course, his intentions aren't welcome. The Secretary of Defense of Elysium, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), famous by her severity arresting and deporting illegal immigrants, decides to raise the level of hostility even more by deploying the unstable agent C.M. Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to neutralize the situation.

What follows are explosions, cyborgs and android fights, a lot of hacking, highly entertaining violence, and of course, a lot of social commentary in between.

Certainly, one of the flaws of Elysium is the weak character development. Max has some OK background story, but the rest of the characters have no chance to connect with the audience in any form. Delacourt, for example, is a one-dimensional villain who is not an obvious caricature of the elite, but a character whose severity must be taken seriously. Her presence never becomes really significant. However, you have to admit that Sharlto Copley transformation from the fool, adorable and weak District 9's Wikus to the psychopath and physically imposing Kruger is amazing.

But besides that, Elysium is a solid tale about the class struggle and the migrant population conflict. Once again, Blomkamp decides to use hardcore sci-fi to express his ideas. The need for a universal free health system and the understanding of the injustices committed in the name of borders are the main themes.

In the middle of this neoliberal age, where many powerful countries still deny that fundamental right to their inhabitants, and in this Trump era where immigrants are vilified with frightening ease, the future extrapolation of Elysium doesn't look crazy or blown out of proportion at all. And that's frightening.

As a movie, Elysium suffered because it just wasn't Blomkamp's first movie. The unfair comparison with District 9, a superior film but not by that much, condemned it to be perceived as a "slump" in his career.

But, don't worry, time will rescue this movie. Especially when the future will start to look more and more like this fiction. I don't think the same can be said for Chappie, which I really like for 2/3, but also really hated in parts.

Movie Details

Title: Elysium

Release Year: 2013

Director(s): Neill Blomkamp

Actors: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley a.o.

4 stars for Elysium

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