Big-budget ‘Elysium’ tackles today’s social, economic issues

By David Combest

September 4, 2013

Neill Blomkamp of “District 9,” has created a film that is very rare to find in mainstream Hollywood and many Independent films today.

The 33-year-old South African director has stated that his films are not political cinema but works of entertainment. Looking at “District 9”, we see a profile of the events during the apartheid era in South Africa that is delivered to us in the form of the dramatic sci-fi genre.

Blomkamp returns to this genre with his latest film, “Elysium”. The film follows Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) whom is an ex-convict trying to stay legitimate by working a dead-end job in a factory located in the ruins of Los Angeles in the year 2154.

Life in 2154 is not what you’d expect life to be in the future on Earth. 

Unemployment is at an all-time high.

Along with high rates of crime, there is hunger, poverty and little to no workers rights for the few that are fortunately employed.

This is experienced by every citizen in the ruins of the world. Just 20 minutes away by rocket is Elysium, a space station designed for the upper class, a paradise that is guarded from the people on Earth.

Should people attempt to visit Elysium, Jessica Delacourt (Jodi Foster) will call on her mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to shoot down the rockets, causing mass deaths in the name of “homeland security.”

Max is exposed to a high amount of radiation while on the job one day. This happens when he is being forced by his manager to perform a dangerous task. Max will die in five days because of his exposure to radiation; his only hope is to make it to Elysium where a medi-pod could cure him within a few seconds.

He is forced to return to his life of crime in order to get a free ride on a rocket. His job is to steal information from one of the upper-class members on Earth doing business and secretly planning a coup for Delacourt. When the job is done, he finds the secret plans and this makes him the most-wanted man by Delacourt and Kruger. This also gives him a chance to save his own life and the lives of others.

The film is refreshing and unusual in the very real decay of Hollywood cinema. Currently, very few directors seem to care about the social and economical struggles of the people they are trying to speak to.

Of course this isn’t too much of a surprise, many filmmakers either cannot grasp the weight of contemporary affairs or simply they don’t want to because of what they think the masses what to watch and will make them money, thus dismissing it.

“Elysium” has taken these events and made them themes in the story, from the ever-growing gap class, to healthcare, to worker’s rights being taken away and /or being attacked, also adding to the horrors of drone strikes that plagues the news stories and paranoia of the citizens today.

Copley, Damon, Foster and Luna are wonderful at their roles, bringing a true emotion that is relatable and/or seen within current events. The scenes of a ruined Los Angeles were shot in Mexico City and make the viewer feel that this environment really isn’t that fantastical.

The film avoids clichés that it could have fallen into and blends sci-fi, drama and action so well that it becomes a reality and thankfully doesn’t come off cartoonish. The movie is entertaining and gripping in the action scenes as well as the special effects for the sci-fi aspect and wonderful acting for the drama.

Blomkamp states that his films are purely entertainment but underneath the special effects and the sci-fi genre, his films include issues that are very prevalent in the minds of people today.  It has a sharp criticism of the elite and the contradictions of capitalism that is clearly on Blomkamp’s mind.

Five out of five stars.