Announcing his arrival as an exciting, original voice with his terrific 2009 debut, the breathtaking sci-fi blast District 9, South African director Neill Blomkamp returns with Elysium, another intelligent action movie with a social message nicely woven in.
 
Set in 2154, a polluted and overpopulated Earth has been left to the poor by the rich, who now live in a paradise-like space station orbiting our planet. Up there in Elysium, sickness, crime and poverty do not exist. So when Max (Matt Damon), a reformed car thief, is injured in a radioactive accident, he becomes desperate to travel to Elysium to cure himself. Too bad he has to get past a psychopathic assassin first (Sharlto Copley), and then there’s that frosty defender of the rich world (Jodie Foster).
 
 
Echoing similar themes of social inequality and the high-handedness of the privileged class that he addressed in District 9, Blomkamp even adopts the same gritty shooting style, particularly for the Earth portions. Yet there’s a tidy contrasting elegance to the Elysium-set scenes…that is until spaceships come crashing into landscaped lawns, and Copley and Damon get down to some serious ass-kicking!
 
These two men in fact, are the film’s most interesting characters, and Elysium seldom misses a beat when it’s focusing on them. But a predictable final act, involving a valiant sacrifice and an aborted romance, slacken the film’s pace.
 
I’m going with three and a half out of five for Elysium. The budget’s bigger and the special effects are slicker, but this is a blockbuster with a brain. Best enjoyed with a big helping of popcorn.
 
 

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