Elysium (2013)

In the future, we can trust that Jason Bourne will be RoboCop and save the day.

It’s the year year 2154 and basically, the planet Earth has gone to shit. So shitty, in fact, that the most of the better-off citizens have now fled to an ideal, carefree space-station Elysium, where they don’t have to worry about injury, disease, poverty, being dirty, or anything at all for that matter. Because they run such a tight ship up there, mainly thanks to the Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster), nobody from Earth gets into their atmosphere or comes even close to polluting it. Their so well-off, that everybody down on planet Earth is just struggling to get by and make ends meet, especially factory-worker and ex-con Max DeCosta (Matt Damon), who now has an even bigger burden on his back of only being allowed 5 days left to live, due to a mishap at the factory he works at. In order to get back at the high-priced, corporate-heads that seemingly ruined his life and wanted nothing to do with him, Max has found a way to become super-strengthened, brutal, and ready for a fight, in hopes that he can take over Elysium, save his life, and gain many others on Earth, citizenship to roam about and have the same benefits as the ones on Elysium. However, when you have a whole space-station against you, as well as a ruthless mercenary (Sharlto Copley) who’s hungry for blood, the objective may be a lot harder for seemingly a one-man-army.

Yeah, sorry for the long-ass synopsis but I can’t help it. This movie got me pumped-up and still has me going a little bit crazy in the head! Not because it was confusing, mind-numbing, or psychological in any way, but because it’s straight and pure, sci-fi action-flick that we could only get during the last month of summer, and done so well by the same man who made a relatively similar blockbuster 4 years ago with District 9: Neil Blomkamp. That’s right, even though there are no aliens in refugee camps here, there’s still plenty of themes and ideas that Blomkamp likes to tuggle with, but also have some insane action go on as well, which is some of the best, most thrilling I’ve seen all summer. Don’t get me wrong, these past 3 months haven’t been lame or action-less at all, but they haven’t necessarily had me jumping in my seat quite as much as this one did throughout it’s hour-and-40-minute time-limit.

"Taste these apples, rich people!!"
“Taste these apples, rich people!!”

Honestly, it all just goes to show you what type of writer/director you’re working with here with Blomkamp as the guy seems like he has a vision, sticks to it, makes his points, but never gets over-preachy and forgets about what really matters the most about this flick: The enjoyment-factor. Plenty of times you can just hear Blomkamp’s material crying out, “immigration is bad”, “the government’s corrupt”, and even a little bit of “we are “the one percenters””, but it’s never over-done to where we stray away from the thrills and chills of this action, which is made even better by Blomkamp’s grand-eye for detail to creating this world and making it his, even if isn’t the most original thing out there in the world. Pretty much, you can tell that instead of there being aliens living in these run-down shacks, there’s humans, and also robots, however, Blomkamp keeps it interesting using CGI that almost looks too real to be taken as science-fiction. Even the little utopia of Elysium seems like it could be happening right outside in space right now, that’s how impressive these visuals are.

But enough of the visuals, back to the movie itself. What works here the most is that no matter where this story goes, no matter how many twists it throws at us, or hell, what it has to say about what it’s all a metaphor for; the movie never ceases to be thrilling. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for the longest amount of time, and even though there’s a couple of soft spots here and there for character-development and exposition, the movie continues to move and move at a rapid speed that you’ll feel like you’re all wrapped-up in this race along with Max and the rest of his friendly-followers. The world looks beautiful and realistic enough to bring you in, but it’s the pace and the energy that Blomkamp brings which keeps you there, and rarely ever lets you go. You’ll root for the good guys, even when they stand-up against the biggest and the worst obstacles in their way; and you’ll shiver in fright whenever you see a baddie coming from a mile away, putting you in the place of knowing something that the goodies don’t know. That feeling is what makes, but can also break most action-thrillers, but it does more of the former to this one and it’s a testament to Blomkamp’s direction for never settling for less and always going for the loud, thrashing sounds of bullets, explosions smacks, grabs, punches, breaks, and whatever the hell else the man has to throw at us or his characters.

Basically, in a nutshell: Blomkamp is the type of director, in general, that you have to keep your eye on. The man’s already two movies down, and he’s taking the sci-fi game by storm. Hell, he’s taking movies by storm! Just watch out for this guy. I’m telling ya!

First, we had a respected, quality-actor like Brad Pitt take on a “genre flick” earlier this summer with World War Z, and now his buddy here, Matt Damon, has done the same thing; except the fact that Damon’s may have been a better choice for him and his career in the long run. Damon’s general likability, and every-day look and feel of his acting repertoire, works so well for this character and has you immersed in Max and his story right away. We get that he’s a troubled guy, who grew up as an orphan, dreamed big, but had very little happen for him, and as hackneyed as that may sound, Blomkamp and Damon make it work and comes off as sympathetic. We feel for Max right from the beginning, and we follow him as he goes through whatever he has to do to stay alive, keep his morals in check, and also save other’s lives as well. Max isn’t a perfect human-being in the least bit, he can actually be kind of selfish at times, but he feels like a human-being nonetheless, and a very compelling one to watch as well. It probably also helps that Damon is always down for looking the part of a total ass-kicker, and it’s nice to see that his trimming-down days didn’t stop with the end of the Bourne franchise. Tack on a head full of nothing but skin, and you got a scary mofo; something I’d never thought I’d say about a performance coming from the always lovable Matt Damon.

"Gee, blimey! I'm wicked haaardcorre. That's Scottish enough, right?"
“Gee, blimey! I’m wicked haaardcorre. That’s Scottish enough, right?”

The person in this movie who I can say is easily the exact opposite in terms of character and acting here is Sharlto Copley as the mean, lean, blood-thirsty mercenary assigned the unofficial, but official task of killing Max before he goes too far into the system. In all honesty, Copley is so over-the-top, so crazy, and so insane with this role, that he ends up just about stealing the whole movie, despite him being totally out-of-place among the rest of the flick. Any lesser-actor probably would have been a freak-show you couldn’t love to just sit, point, and laugh at, but Copley, with about 3 movies I’ve seen him in so far, shows that he’s capable of making a total nut-job, actually frightening to be around, rather than a total joke from beginning to end. You know that once he shows up, bad shite is going to happen, and nothing’s going to bode well for the people he’s pursuing, which makes him all the more detestable, but also utterly and completely watchable. The scenes with him and Damon, whether they are chatting, fighting, or macho-posturing the shit out of the other, are filled with much deserved tension and suspense, as if the movie itself is going to rip apart and just let these two go at it for days on end.

The only one in this cast that I couldn’t really care for all that much was surprisingly Jodie Foster as the snarly, evil Secretary Delacourt. And trust me, it’s not that Foster gives a bad performance per se, hell, I think she’s incapable of doing so, but it something does seem to be a bit too weird about her character, from the accent that she forces out with every line, and what her real motivations are behind all of the sneaky crap she’s pulling. It was also probably more disappointing to see Foster in such a role that was meant to be so meaningful to the rest of the story, but somehow, wasn’t. From the trailers and even the posters, you’d think she’d have a bigger role everything, but she sort of takes the back-seat to some of the biggest, most pounding scenes, even if you know she’s somewhere in the background. Her presence is felt, but almost in the sense that you know she’s just waiting to act her ass off, yet, isn’t given the chance to. It’s all fine and wondrous because we’re able to be distracted by the rock-solid action and suspense, but it still feels like something is missing, and it’s Ms. Foster herself. Or at least more of her.

Consensus: Despite featuring most of the same ideas and points Blomkamp studied, and did a lot better with, in his first flick, Elysium still grabs ahold of you with it’s compelling, emotional story, continues to work it’s tension up, until it’s about to practically explode and take you down with it. That’s a good thing, by the way.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

And you call that, "gay"?
And you call that, “gay”?


  1. Just not that interested in this one. I’ve already heard enough about its political preachiness and class warfare fearmongering. Solid review though – as always!

  2. Great review Dan, and man was I excited about seeing this one!!! I am totally with you though with Foster’s character. I was surprised it was with her that I had problems with — the few that I did — because she’s always been a pivotal part of a movie. She was really awkward I thought, still it didn’t really bring this kickass flick down though. This is totally what Oblivion and World War Z were trying to be in one movie.

  3. Good review, Dan. You definitely enjoyed this one a helluva lot more than I did, though. I liked it well enough, but overall just felt that it was just an okay flick, with nothing that makes it really stand out from the pack. I don’t regret seeing it, but for me at least, it just continues tr seemingly neverending trend of mediocre films that we’ve been bombarded with this year. Decent enough, but I’ll forget it within the week.

  4. Fantastic review Dan! I’m really looking forward to Elysium and I agree that Neil Blomkamp is awesome! Also, after seeing Matt Damon’s great performance in Behind the Candelabra, I’d love to see what he’ll do here.

  5. I may just be soulless, but I couldn’t attach myself to Damon; it was like trying to fuse a robotic supplemental wheel chair to me. They have that great little scene between him and his friend where Damon shows he’s got the brains to pull off a heist well, “You go in with one guy, take the two fastest and melt the third,” but that cleverness is never showed throughout the rest of the movie.

    • I remember that line. Vaguely, but I do remember it. I didn’t care too much for the character per se, but I cared for Damon and I think that’s what I liked about the guy for the most part.

  6. I didn’t find Elysium compelling at all. It was pretty big disappointment from a director that really hit a home run with his last flick (District 9). It was somewhat redeemed by the special effects and Matt Damon’s performance. But that hackneyed story with the stock villains was like a 10 year old wrote the script. And Jodie Foster? Yikes! WTF was she thinking with that accent? Was it French? Was she a robot? I don‘t even think she knew. It was kind of funny though. Lots of laughter at my screening. 5/10

  7. I think you’re a little more excited by this one than I was, buddy. I didn’t get “grabbed” all that much. It had moments of massive potential, and the VFX were great, but it didn’t come together at the end of the day to add up to anything more than “ok” for me. 😦

  8. […] “Despite featuring most of the same ideas and points Blomkamp studied, and did a lot better with, in his first flick, Elysium still grabs ahold of you with it’s compelling, emotional story, continues to work it’s tension up, until it’s about to practically explode and take you down with it. That’s a good thing, by the way.” – Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews […]

  9. Great review Dan. I agree that Blomkamp’s film is a nice balance of really great sci-fi action and social commentary. It’s clear that he takes great care to create the world he’s imagined and it shows in the fantastic art direction, as well as the special effects in this film. I’m encouraged by Blomkamp’s work and concur that he is someone to watch.

    Damon is great in the lead role. He provides a nuanced portrayal of max as a guy that you can’t help sympathizing with even though he’s not the best human being. You also understand that a lot of who he is comes from his upbringing and the fact that the man keeps him down. Even when he tries to do the right thing he still gets crapped on. Copley was also wicked entertaining and stole a lot of scenes, but man does his accent make him hard to understand! Jodie Foster was probably the least compelling character for me too.

    If I had any complaints about this film it’s the excessive handheld camerawork and the numerous underlying themes. I felt like with all of the messages and subtext, it got a bit busy and thus some of its poignancy was lost.

  10. Elysium’s out here next week and still looking forward to it. I do want another District 9 – that sort of gritty, hard to watch sci-fi flick. But will settle for this I guess!

  11. […] Dan @ dtmmr.com: Despite featuring most of the same ideas and points Blomkamp studied, and did a lot better with, in his first flick, Elysium still grabs ahold of you with it’s compelling, emotional story, continues to work it’s tension up, until it’s about to practically explode and take you down with it. That’s a good thing, by the way. […]

  12. I didn’t like Elysium at all… save for the parallels it draws with actual asylum seekers. I didn’t find it thrilling, but rather slow and monotonous. It’s amazing how we saw the same movie, but have completely opposite reactions to it. I think you’ve written a great and thorough review, I just happen to disagree with you on almost every point! haha 🙂

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