Elysium (15)

Film

Science fiction

Elysium

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Wed Aug 7 2013

Something about this first US studio feature from the South African-born director of ‘District 9’ just doesn’t feel right. While Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 debut was a bracing blast of whipsmart sci-fi, the work of a committed writer-director with talent and integrity to burn, ‘Elysium’ feels like the product of a cautious Hollywood committee. It retains the action-movie-with-a-social-conscience template of ‘District 9’ but ditches that film’s sense of dizzying, anything-goes vitality.

Matt Damon is sturdy – if a little faceless – as the futuristic blue-collar grunt whose life nosedives when he receives a fatal-in-five-days radioactive blast at work. His only hope is to get to Elysium, the orbiting paradise reserved exclusively for the rich and heartless, run by Jodie Foster’s clipped, frosty and unconvincingly French CEO.

There are moments in ‘Elysium’ which recapture the breath-stopping intensity of Blomkamp’s debut, most of them involving South African actor Sharlto Copley as a mangled Afrikaans mercenary, the only character here with any spark. The special effects are uniformly superb, and a handful of action sequences – including a magnificent mid-film Smart car heist – justify the price of admission.

But this is a messy, poorly structured film, riddled with plot holes and lacking any kind of satisfying conclusion. Perhaps it’s another case of raised expectations: from a first-timer, ‘Elysium’ might seem more exciting. But in the wake of ‘District 9’, we’re all too aware what this risk-taking filmmaker is capable of, and it’s far more than this conceptually bold, sporadically engaging but ultimately bland blockbuster.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Wed Aug 21, 2013

Duration:

109 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|11
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Changez

This is not a film for stupid people. Ultimately, critics and reviewers will pan the film simply because they're unaware of the sci-fi tropes and themes that it references. Like Tarantino, Blomkamp is demanding engagement from the viewer, and when one is able to shunt disbelief aside and enter his world, the brilliance of his vision and his technical ability in portraying it make it an emotionally and intellectually satisfying experience. This is Asimov meets Orwell, it shows a depth of understanding of the nature and evolution of technology as well as the essential structures that produce it that should make most political scientists feel ashamed. Blomkamp isn't producing 'summer block buster entertainment' for the American masses, he's trying to create something artistic. This is not Lady Gaga, it's the White Stripes. A lot of critics will miss the joy of this movie by trying to watch it in terms of a summer blockbuster, instead of being aware that this is a director who will never (at least we hope) produce anything that Hollywood wants him to make. Blomkamp heavily references the scientific types found in novels like Dune and gives them a feeling of reality that is almost creepily grounded in today. A lot of critics ask questions like "how did people end up on Elysium". Well how have rich people in any time period distanced themselves from the masses? The answer is slowly. This is a film that will ultimately be beyond people who have never seen or noted how extreme income disparities develop and who have no feeling for how political economy works thorough technology. As such many critics will try to cast it as a parody or satire of today's world, but in doing so will miss the point completely. This is the world of today taken to it's logical end. Solid acting by Matt Damon who plays the everyman with a sort of pent up aggression that's important to the role. Jodie Foster's role is delightful, but ultimately, if a movie is defined by the quality of it's villain, Foster is an antagonist but not the ultimate evil. That's reserved for Sharlito Copley, who's portrayal of Agent M Kruger bring chills, all the more so because his type of existence and the nature of his evil are so well recorded in history. But you'd have to know some history to know that and so we come back to the point; Elysium is an intelligent film for intelligent people, and many critics will bash it simply because they don't get it. I certainly don't expect the editor of Time Out London to do so. Frankly, I hope Blomkamp simply ignores them.

sally

I was really looking forward to this film as the trailers made it seem fascinating. I am still getting over the disappointment. Planet Earth is a dump and Elysium is a place in orbit around the Earth. That is the best bit. After this it is just fighting, non stop. Jodie Foster gives the worst performance of her life speaking in a robotic monotone voice for no particular reason. Anyway she dies half way through which is a relief. I didn't wait to the end as fighting is just not my scene

Dimitris

The main idea draws your attention, Matt Damon is good and there are some stylish visual effects. However, many serious plot holes, bad direction during action scenes, a ridiculous villain and political ideas disconnected from reality and logic make this a tiresome science-fiction movie. http://argonautis.eu/elysium.htm

Paul

Take a great film like District 9 add Hollywood money and this is what you get, pulp for the masses with some Afrikaans thrown in - Transformers without the robots

Robert

I totally agree with Tom Huddleston (above) that "this is a messy, poorly structured film, riddled with plot holes and lacking any kind of satisfying conclusion", but then cannot understand why he gives it a 3* rating. The special effects are good (hence it gets a star), but the plot is wafer thin and not particularly well constructed and the film just lacks any subtlety and lightness. Well before the end I was thinking that the film was getting quite tedious and there was n't a great ending to make me change my mind. I would advise going into this film with low expectations so that you are not disappointed, but even better advice would be not to go to it at all.

critique

Fair-to-middling sci-fi action drama, anchored solidly by Damon but spoiled by Sharlto Copley`s OTT villain. Jodie Foster goes through the motions, struggling with a bizarre accent.

Justin Berkovi

I couldn't disagree more with Time Out's review. Messy? Needing a 'satisfying conclusion?' Come ON!!! Cinema doesn't have to be popcorn fodder to be good cinema. With District 9 Blomkamp showed visionary talent. Not only was the subject matter dealt with in a very poignant way but the humour and 'human' element of the bizarre in the film worked so well. Whilst District 9 was often hard to watch Elysium is a little toned down (Perhaps by the studio?). Nevertheless there is much to applaud with Elysium. Firstly the visuals are nothing short of spectacular and I am pleased that 3D was not considered here. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s you might remember the awe inspiring NASA visuals that showcase what future worlds in space might look like. A stroke of genius Blomkamp uses these to superb effect in Elysium. The proximity of the 'paradise' to Earth and the hardware employed by the film is so believable that you become immersed in the situation almost immediately - Earth is decimated and Elysium is an unaffordable paradise. Whilst there is not as strong a narrative as District 9 Elysium serves perhaps more as a 'day in the life' of the situation. There are too many themes to discuss here but the idea of healthcare provision and it's failings is explored as a core theme. This must resonate with many Americans. I came away wanting to watch more. Blomkamp has a lovely way of directing his actors, he has a serious respect for his subject matter and doesn't ruin it by delving into awful comedy but simultaneously there are some genuinely funny moments. Sharlto Copley is hilarious as a psychotic 'agent'. Brutal, quirky and completely nuts. I came away from the film wanting another hour or so simply because I loved the visuals, the story, the world, the characters. Blomkamp has created the best sci fi since Star Wars - his visual style is beautifully rendered, it's almost poetic. His characters are brutal but human and the way he lets the camera linger allows us wonderful fleeting moment of human sentiment. A superb film, I can't wait for his next.

Justin Berkovi

I couldn't disagree more with Time Out's review. Messy? Needing a 'satisfying conclusion?' Come ON!!! Cinema doesn't have to be popcorn fodder to be good cinema. With District 9 Blomkamp showed visionary talent. Not only was the subject matter dealt with in a very poignant way but the humour and 'human' element of the bizarre in the film worked so well. Whilst District 9 was often hard to watch Elysium is a little toned down (Perhaps by the studio?). Nevertheless there is much to applaud with Elysium. Firstly the visuals are nothing short of spectacular and I am pleased that 3D was not considered here. If you grew up in the 70s and 80s you might remember the awe inspiring NASA visuals that showcase what future worlds in space might look like. A stroke of genius Blomkamp uses these to superb effect in Elysium. The proximity of the 'paradise' to Earth and the hardware employed by the film is so believable that you become immersed in the situation almost immediately - Earth is decimated and Elysium is an unaffordable paradise. Whilst there is not as strong a narrative as District 9 Elysium serves perhaps more as a 'day in the life' of the situation. There are too many themes to discuss here but the idea of healthcare provision and it's failings is explored as a core theme. This must resonate with many Americans. I came away wanting to watch more. Blomkamp has a lovely way of directing his actors, he has a serious respect for his subject matter and doesn't ruin it by delving into awful comedy but simultaneously there are some genuinely funny moments. Sharlto Copley is hilarious as a psychotic 'agent'. Brutal, quirky and completely nuts. I came away from the film wanting another hour or so simply because I loved the visuals, the story, the world, the characters. Blomkamp has created the best sci fi since Star Wars - his visual style is beautifully rendered, it's almost poetic. His characters are brutal but human and the way he lets the camera linger allows us wonderful fleeting moment of human sentiment. A superb film, I can't wait for his next.

paul robinson

Odd that Mr Hamilton seems to be reviewing Mr Huddleston's review and not the film. Won't watch this because Jodie Foster's in it and Matt Damon's bald. Where is District 10?

godfrey hamilton

To this expat, living in Los Angeles for the past 18 years, Elysium's vision of a degraded planet, and of this city reduced to an approximation of a post-invasion/occupation Iraq or a benighted Afghanistan, seem all-too-disturbingly credible. And in a country where millions of us (We the People) have no guaranteed access to the best health care, the film's allegory felt true and angry. And most reviewers (except The New Yorker's Anthony Lane) *have* been misreading the allegory. Ultimately, the key to the movie is in the title (and its pagan Greek sources) and in the unfinished story told by the little girl about a meerkat and a hippo. This movie has rattled critics and audiences here in the US because it is an unapologetically socialist fable. Odd that Mr Huddleston seems bothered by literal surfaces, rather than the urgency of the message, which is as potent as the condemnation of apartheid in District 9.

godfrey hamilton

To this expat, living in Los Angeles for the past 18 years, Elysium's vision of a degraded planet, and of this city reduced to an approximation of a post-invasion/occupation Iraq or a benighted Afghanistan, seem all-too-disturbingly credible. And in a country where millions of us (We the People) have no guaranteed access to the best health care, the film's allegory felt true and angry. And most reviewers (except The New Yorker's Anthony Lane) *have* been misreading the allegory. Ultimately, the key to the movie is in the title (and its pagan Greek sources) and in the unfinished story told by the little girl about a meerkat and a hippo. This movie has rattled critics and audiences here in the US because it is an unapologetically socialist fable. Odd that Mr Huddleston seems bothered by literal surfaces, rather than the urgency of the message, which is as potent as the condemnation of apartheid in District 9.