Review: Elysium will have you entertained

Max (MATT DAMON, center), Julio (DIEGO LUNA, left) and Spider (WAGNER MOURA) meet inside Spider's armory in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM.
Max (MATT DAMON, center), Julio (DIEGO LUNA, left) and Spider (WAGNER MOURA) meet inside Spider's armory in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM.

According to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the gap between rich and poor in industrialised nations is accelerating.

Therefore, fast-forward a century to the setting of Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, and it seems highly plausible the wealth divide will be so vast that only the privileged few will entertain the possibility of colonizing new worlds while the rest of us scrabble for scraps of comfort in the dirt of a dying planet.

The year is 2154 and while most of the population lives in squalor on the surface of Earth, the wealthy inhabit a state-of-the-art space station called Elysium governed by President Patel (Faran Tahir) and his no-nonsense Secretary Of Defence, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), who ensures refugee ships from Earth do not land on Elysium to take advantage of medical bays installed in every home.

Back in the slums on Earth, factory worker Max DeCosta (Matt Damon) grafts long hours for meagre pay. He is involved in an industrial accident resulting in exposure to dangerous levels of radiation. Max knows his only hope is to breach Elysium’s defences so he can access a medical bay and banish the cancer that is ravaging his system.

Local criminal Spider (Wagner Moura) agrees to help if Max will help to steal secrets from the mind of John Carlyle (William Fichtner), CEO of the corporation responsible for constructing Elysium.

A deal is struck and Max is fitted with an exoskeleton, hardwired into his brain, to bolster his strength and allow a data download from Carlyle’s mind.

However, the path to Elysium is littered with obstacles, not least Delacourt’s favourite contract killer, a sadistic mercenary called Kruger (Sharlto Copley).

The action unfolds at a brisk pace, punctuated with flashbacks to Max’s childhood to establish a romantic bond with a nurse called Frey (Alice Braga).

Damon doesn’t have any emotional meat to sink his teeth into and so simply imposes his physical presence on the film, while Foster slinks with lip-smacking glee.

Action sequences are slickly orchestrated and Blomkamp brings together all of the surviving characters for a rousing finale, that proves one brave man can make a difference.