(out of 5)
Being a member of the privileged classes only gets better in the future, with an overpopulated, diseased and polluted planet Earth abandoned by the elite who have taken up residence on a space station that is basically a giant, circular Beverly Hills mansion. On that orbiting paradise, citizens are given the very best of medical care and attend endless afternoon cocktail parties (the only two perks I noticed being emphasized) while back on earth nameless nobodies survive a dense urban jungle that is perpetual misery. Among the peons, of course, there are dreamers, and fifteen years after Gattaca our hopes and desires of freedom are still invested in a straight white man (Matt Damon) who is determined to get off our dirty rock and make it to the big ring in the sky. When a workplace accident sees him acquire a terminal illness with only days left to live, his determination to make it to the place where there is a cure is kicked into high gear, inspiring him to take on a deadly assassination job in order to secure his passage through illegal channels. With his best friend (Diego Luna) in tow, Damon is given a high-tech upgrade (a metallic skeleton is attached to his body), a gun is placed in his hand and he is sent to kill the soulless head of a manufacturing corporation (William Fichtner) who is primarily responsible for the suffering on Earth. Meanwhile, up in the sky a ruthless security chief (Jodie Foster with a strange but enjoyable accent) is tired of the wishy-washy president of Elysium and is planning a coup that will put things more in her line of conservative terror. The whole set-up is a boring retread of past science-fiction allegories, the fight of the dreaming individual against the sleeping masses, with plot contrivances that don’t exactly hold up under close examination (the medical bay he needs to cure him is probably being made in a factory on Earth). That said, the big surprise is that, in execution, Neill Blomkamp’s painfully unsubtle follow-up to his equally painfully unsubtle District 9 is absolutely wonderful. Terrific acting, gorgeous cinematography and an unstoppable pace conspire for a memorable night at the movies. You’ve seen it all before, but you won’t mind in the slightest that you have. The snob in me, however, reminds anyone who has seen Viridiana of why the ending isn’t exactly the happy promise of utopian living that the swelling music might suggest.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Screenplay by Neill Blomkamp
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Music by Ryan Amon
Production Design by Philip Ivey
Costume Design by April Ferry