By Joan Ellis
Elysium will make you shake and rattle precisely because it is threaded with credible foreshadowing of our future.
As Neill Blomkamp’s camera scans the face of Earth, 2057, a voiceover tells us that our planet has become diseased, polluted and over-populated – suffocating its inhabitants in toxic air, filthy hospitals and decrepit buildings. People stand in endless lines that lead nowhere; programmed robots control street crowds that are a nightmare of angry humanity. The color of life is a very dark gray.
Given a situation clearly beyond repair, the rich have decided to leave Earth for planet Elysium where the privileged have built a clean, functioning civilization. To get passage to that safe haven, people must deserve a safe passage “CITIZEN” logo that is burned onto their arms. The chosen board spaceships that leave the ordinary, the luckless and the sick behind – condemned to life on now barren Earth. Though it’s unclear where the privileged gather for departure, it’s easy to imagine the ships leaving from the Wall Street heliport.
Here and out there, life is grim by contemporary measures. Both worlds are policed by rigid robots unable to grasp subtlety or emotion. Guns used for attack and defense fire canisters that explode with obliterating force as they reach a 5-foot perimeter around their human targets. It’s not a long shot bet that our gun manufacturers will develop that gun and that the NRA will defend its use. Consider the perfect prequel to this movie that took place the day it opened in this our year 2013. Gun owners actually marched on Starbucks stores wearing their holstered guns in twisted support of the Second Amendment.
The plot, such as it is, involves watching our hero Max (Matt Damon) try to download data from the brain of an ambitious CEO. He who has it, controls the world. To humanize the story for audiences of 2013, writer/director Blomkamp gives us Frey, Matt’s now endangered first love from boyhood. Alice Beaga, in a lovely performance, makes Frey a fine reason for a dying man to become a hero.
Matt Damon – injured and imperiled – gives a rather dull performance as might be expected of a man dying of radiation poisoning, among other things. Sharlto Copley is an entirely successful new brand of disgusting villain. Elysium CEO Jodie Foster, whose angled face and body are as severe as the suit she wears, is a reminder that there is a thin line between ambitious humans and the robots that control them. Elysium is as bleak as Earth.
You will enjoy the free health care on Elysium where a man with a fractured face, a terminally ill patient or an irradiated human can simply walk into a beautiful white room for immediate successful repair. The whole movie is a metaphorical feast of today and tomorrow: self-guided bullets, a destroyed environment, a ravaged world and ill-gotten gains. A haunting thought: Who among us will win passage when Earth becomes uninhabitable?
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.