Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Film Review | Elysium

When trees don’t grow in Los Angeles, and instead of boulevards, dusty vastness envelops its people, there has to be a celestial wonderland somewhere. Where would all the beautiful people go? So it does, in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. In 2154, while Earth is in rot, LA’s wealthy are in an artificially created antiseptic swaddle. From inside, it looks like a cross between south of France and Dubai, to grimy orphans looking up at it from Earth, it is like a shimmering luxury car insignia. For Elysium dwellers, Earth’s air is not suitable for breathing; LA is their robot-assembling sweatshop.

Following up his fascinating debut of 2009, District 9, the gifted South African writer-director, now firmly entrenched in Hollywood, is blunt and fiery in his second film, a pulpy science fiction thriller. It is, hands down, one of Hollywood’s best in the year so far.

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Frey (Alice Braga, right) is confronted by Kruger (Sharlto Copley) in one of the scenes from the movie ‘Elysium’.
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Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) in ‘Elysium’.

Some of the climactic moments in this drama, reminiscent of the worlds Philip K Dick created in his dystopian science fiction and the Pixar classic Wall-E (2008), are gorgeous. One scene that stayed with me, one that may strike as ordinary on paper, is of an enormous robot exploding into pieces. Sound, slow-motion (sparingly used in the film) and almost psychedelic visual details are in perfect harmony. It’s a mesmerizingly synthetic spectacle. Towards the end, the film goes into Terminator terrain, packed with bluster and bludgeon tropes.

What stays above performance, technique and story-telling, is the director’s unapologetic vision. District 9, also about social segregation and xenophobia, frames South African apartheid on a group of aliens who land in Johannesburg. It was a more layered and sly film—and a minimalistic indie, as opposed to this film’s big budget gloss. Elysium is sentimental about Earth, projected as a wasted opportunity, and about upliftment of the deprived. This is a simplified and 21st century version of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, wrapped in a very attractive pop sensibility.

Elysium releases in theatres on Friday.

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