- Released Internationally on 07/08/13
- Released in Malta by KRS on 28/08/13
3-word review: Slightly inferior follow-up.
The future is now
The illegal migrants huddle together in terrified silence, praying and hoping to get to their new life safely. After paying more than they can afford to a sleazy merchant who thrives off desperation, they make a valiant attempt to reach the promised land where their children can grow up safely, with clean air and free healthcare. The risk they take is huge - most of them will not survive the trip.
This is not some extract from a news bulletin about the current situation in the Mediterranean, it’s a rather poignant scene early on in the film, which despite being fast-paced and action-driven manages to give us a taste of the migrants’ hopes and fears, and strike home the very relevant message. Just like in Neil Blomkamp’s first film, District 9, the use of a futuristic vision of earth to tackle a present-day issue is very well-executed.
Unfortunately, this second film of his doesn’t manage to maintain the novelty and relevance of his first, and after a very impressive opening the film descends slightly into standard, unemotional action territory, with a few quiet scenes here and there which beg you to care by slowing things down and chucking a wailing ethnic female voice on the soundtrack. It doesn’t always work.
In a nutshell
The stunning opening gives us just two sentences of backstory, and manages to draw us immediately into Elysium’s world - earth is diseased and overpopulated, and the elite few have escaped into a massive space station orbiting the earth, where they live in lush green tranquillity whilst keeping a sharp lookout for any unworthy ones trying to crash the party. Jodie Foster is the face of the elite and Matt Damon is our hero on the ground.
After an accident at work, his health suddenly becomes an issue, and the script goes for the old trick of adding urgency to the story by giving him a set number of days to live. With nothing to lose, he plans a daring trip to Elysium, with the altruistic aim of making their wonderful healthcare tools available for all of Earth.
Has its good points
Damon is, as always, very likeable, and his human side manages to shine through here, despite the prosthetics and exoskeleton they screw into him to make him strong enough for the mission. The shots of earth are impressively done - it looks like one enormous favela - but what I really loved was the look of Elysium. Definitely a space station, but for once designed with the possibility of fresh air and open-air landscapes. Very clever. The visual effects are all top-notch, including droids that looks better than Transformers and a couple of memorable healing shots.
Sharlto Copley, who shot to fame after his unforgettable main role in District 9, is back in a prominent role here, initially treading the line between Earth and Elysium as a rogue gun for hire. The sense of urgency is maintained throughout the film, which runs for what I thought was the perfect length for this type of film, and which thankfully helped us forget some of the inconsistencies and clichés it contained by ending beautifully.