One of the great sub-genres of science fiction explored explored by authors and filmmakers is the dystopia. The paranoia of 1984, the environmental tragedy of Silent Running, the overpopulation of Soylent Green and Logan’s Run, the rampant crime of Dredd and Demolition Man, the genetics-as-currency of Gattaca, each explore an aspect of a negative future that could be. Elysium is an action heavy science fiction film which explores a number of themes: biotechnology, robotics, corporate greed, transhumanism, and class struggle.
Director Neill Blomkamp, District 9, does a solid job with balancing the human drama with the explosive action necessary to power this story. Matt Damon’s Max Da Costa is a man pushed around by circumstances until he chooses to take charge of the direction of his life. Max is part of a vast underclass suffering in the waste that is Los Angeles of 2154. He works a menial job with little chance for advancement and no healthcare. An ex-gang member Max is trying to live on the right side of the law. However, when he is dosed with a seemingly fatal dose of radiation in an industrial accident, Max knows the only way he can survive is a med-bay. There’s just one problem. The only med-bays are on the restricted access space habitat, Elysium, and only the wealthy have access. The action takes off as Max’s shuttle blasts off for the space station.
The acting by Damon, Jodie Foster, and Alice Braga is solid, the direction workmanlike, but the ending can be predicted an hour before it happens. This undercuts the dramatic momentum of the third act and Damon’s performance in the last moments of the film. Elysium is a decent film and worth seeing, but it could have been so much better.