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'Elysium' - trouble in paradise (Movie Review)

By Troy Ribeiro, Film: "Elysium"; Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner and Wagner Moura; Director: Neill Blomk Rating: **


Set in a futuristic sci-fi environment, "Elysium" is a tale of a hero's journey. It's the story of his motive to survive and how he liberates his brethren.

Cut to year 2159. The world is divided into two sets of people, the haves and the have-nots. The rich and the extremely wealthy live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium while the rest reside in the overtly congested, chaotic, crime-ridden and polluted Earth.

The stories relating to the luxurious lifestyle and state-of-the-art medical facility on Elysium are interesting. It's this paradise where every earthling vies to escape to.

Young Max (Matt Damon), living in an orphanage is once told by a nun, "Everyone has a destiny, a purpose to live". So he promises his girlfriend Frey (Alice Braga) that he would take her to Elysium one day.

But years later, Max, an ex-con, single and separated from Frey is a worker in a factory. Due to an accident, he is exposed to high radiation and now he has only five days to live. The only way he can survive is if he can access Elysium's medical facilities.

With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission. The only way out is by taking the illegal route which is controlled by local crime lord Spider (Wagner Moura).

The deal between the two is that Max kidnaps a leading industrialist and arms supplier John Carlyle (William Fichtner) so that Spider and his buddies can have control over Elysium, and in return Spider would transport Max to Elysium.

However, things don't work out as planned. Max soon finds himself on the wrong side of Elysium's ambitious Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) and her local agent on Earth, Krugger (Sharlto Copley) and events go from bad to worse to absurd.

Director Neill Blompkamp's plot is too convoluted, fragmented and unbelievable. The premise and characters all feel like boring recycled archetypes. Even worse, we get a series of silly and convenient circumstances that manufacture a narrow and equally silly plot of one hero who does what every generic hero does. Also, the key antagonist turns out to be some moronic hack and slash mercenary.

The performances of every character range from engaging, over-the-top to confusing. They deliver whatever is expected of them. While Matt Damon is steadfast and consistent, Jodie Foster's accent wanders but she makes up for her icy screen presence. Wagner Moura as Spider seems to have promise.

Elysium's greatest strength is its aesthetic vision of future space-crunched Earth. The opening shot is reminiscent of the cityscape opening of "Blade Runner". But unlike "Blade Runner", here it is much more rough and gritty, set primarily in harsh daylight and with most of the conflict taking place outdoors.

Also, another irritant is the constant shaky camera work.

Overall, "Elysium" is a well packaged under-developed film.

--IANS (Posted on 28-09-2013)

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