The thrills keep coming in Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s stunning follow-up to District 9. Imagining the year 2154, when the wealthy live in an orbiting Beverly Hills and the rest struggle in squalor on Earth, the writer/director delivers on the promise of his debut and proves that in his hands, bigger is better.
At the core of Blomkamp’s epic class struggle is Max (Maxwell Perry Cotton), an orphan with dreams of going with his inseparable friend Frey (Valentina Giron) to the titular paradise in the sky. Innocently charting their future amidst a desolate L.A. backdrop, the pair make for an easy buy-in and effectively lay the groundwork for the struggles to come. Without their humane foundation, the leap forward a good 25 years with Max (Matt Damon) an ex-con estranged from Frey (Alice Braga) and looking to turn his life around wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful. Neither would his accidental irradiation feel so tragic, his desperate shot to seek healing on Elysium be as meaningful, or the complications that arise on that journey hit with the intensity that they do.
Vaulting Elysium’s relatable story to these grand levels are special effects so believable that multiple behind-the-scenes documentaries will be necessary to decipher how they were achieved. From aggressive police droids to numerous futuristic flying machines, employing light and wind with natural aplomb, the interactions between flesh and CGI challenge one’s comprehension of movie magic with their constant innovation. Utilized in mouth-agape action sequences backed by Ryan Amon’s bass heavy, Inception-like score, these creations keep eyes aglow and the pace active, even in the face of the film’s few missteps.
Though her Secretary of Defense Delacourt is plenty icy, as with her turn in Inside Man, perhaps Jodie Foster isn’t cut out for villainous roles. Her distracting French accent (that she’s from anywhere specific is unimportant) is compounded by the sense that either her voice is dubbed (fluent work in A Very Long Engagement suggests otherwise) or her jaw is mysteriously working overtime. Whatever the case, it’s a bizarre performance, yet only downgrades the film so much. Picking up the evil slack is Delacourt’s personal weapon and the film’s true villain, brutal mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley). With his wild South African ramblings and violent tendencies, he immediately feels like more of a threat than his boss. As his collective terror builds, expressing itself through ongoing battles with Max, Kruger becomes a truly imposing figure and quite possibly the summer’s best adversary.
When these winning elements combine, as they frequently do in Elysium, Blomkamp’s film exceeds its potential of intelligent, boundary-pushing entertainment. Good sci-fi is tough to come by, but this winner proves that great sci-fi is even more rare.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout.
Elysium is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.