Rating: Elysium takes us to a future that everyone should see, not the least of whom are conservative Republicans. Do they dare see where we’re heading?
To his credit, it appears that Director Neill Blomkamp is walking in the late Stanley Kubrick’s artistic shoes. Mr. Kubrick began his career with Paths of Glory (1957), a film advertised as a war epic which contained a scathing expose of governmental indifference to the massive loss of human life in World War I. With his new film, Elysium, Mr. Blomkamp brings us a powerful morality tale about the future of Earth hidden in a futuristic sci-fi film.
In Blomkamp’s initial hit, District 9 (2009), he took a startling look at the consequences of apartheid in South Africa, this time seen through the eyes of segregated, crustacean-like aliens trapped on Earth. With Elysium, we are catapulted forward to 2154 and an Earth that has been left in massive disarray. The wealthy and powerful have fled to a luxurious orbiting space station known as Elysium, while the remaining riffraff on a decaying Earth are left to battle for a menial existence.
Matt Damon plays Max, an ex-con trying to earn a meager living in a factory where any semblance of unions has been left in history’s dust. Suffering exposure to radiation poisoning that threatens his life, he is forced to seek a way to Elysium where medical facilities have evolved to effectively make humans immortal.
In the process, Max agrees to undergo a massive surgical process that attaches steal braces to his back and arms, not to mention a computer implant in his brain. If he wants a trip to Elysium, he has to help a benevolent underworld figure known as Spider (Wagner Moura) who is seeking a way to break Elysium’s code and bring equality back to the Earth.
What ensues is Max’s conflict with Elysium and its deadly robot henchmen on Earth. A massive anti-immigration policy exists on the circling station, and any intruding suspect is immediately killed. Jody Foster plays Delacourt, a heartless cabinet leader of Elysium’s government, where she manifests the personality of a female Dick Cheney. She cares nothing about the situation on Earth, and is trying to arrange a coup that will place her in power on her orbiting paradise.
The suspense in the film builds rapidly and focuses on three superb performances by supporting actors. Sharito Copley, who was also fantastic in the above-referred to District 9, plays Kruger, a violent, cursing hitman doing Delacourt’s dirty work on Earth. He is both heartless and vengeful, and he dominates every scene where he appears.
While Diego Luna embraces his role as Julio, Max’s devoted friend, William Fichtner is equally powerful as John Carlyle, Elysium’s corporate leader in the decaying Los Angeles area. He hates his assignment to Earth, and sees nothing wrong with working his factory semi-slaves to death.
Yet Alice Braga steals the movie as Frey, Max’s friend from childhood who is now a nurse on Earth trying to get her leukemia-stricken daughter to Elysium for a cure. For reasons better left unexplained, she again joins forces with Max as they seek transit to Elysium while trying to avoid death at the hands of Kruger.
What Mr. Blomkamp has created is an Earth where the wealthy care only about the wealthy. If global warming has destroyed our environment, so be it. Let the poor and the oppressed care for themselves, as that is their problem, not the nation’s. All that is needed is an ideal place to live and a robotic police force on Earth that will harshly maintain order.
In Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, the powerful governments on this planet learned nothing after killing over 10 million young men in five years. The well-to-do, powerful politicians in Washington today proudly embrace Christianity on one hand while simultaneously ignoring Christ’s words of “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”;
Mr. Blomkamp remembers that contradiction and it would be wise for us to do the same. The Maxes, Freys and Spiders of this world may not be able to fly first class, but they still deserve a seat on life’s plane.