Science Fiction Or Is It Now?
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
You’ve been reading in the papers these days about the disappearance of the middle class. Well, by 2154 the world will consist of only two classes: the have’s and have not’s.
That’s the premise of “Elysium,” the new science fiction film playing at the Tropic cinema.
According to the prescient storyline, earth has been decimated into a giant rubble heap with the sick and disenfranchised lower classes left to forage through the garbage and if they’re lucky work in the factories that make weapons and robots for the rich.
The wealthy, of course, have fled Earth, now residing on a vast pinwheel space station that looks like a manicured suburban neighborhood of McMansions, the ultimate gated community. I suspect it’s not coincidental that viewed from Earth the space station looks like a giant Mercedes Benz emblem.
The security of the space station -- known as Elysium, the Greek conception of an After Life inhabited by those chosen by the gods -- is overseen by Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jody Foster, at her officious best in a Giorgio Armani suit).
Down on Earth is Max (Matt Damon with a shaved head), an ex-thief who gets a lethal dose of radiation at the Armadyne factory and must get into Elysium for treatment or die in five days.
You see, up on the space station they have bio-med machines that look like a cross between a tanning bed and a cat scan that can re-atomize you, curing what ails you.
Max’s childhood girlfriend Frey (Alice Braga) wants to get there too, since she has a daughter (Emma Tremblay) with leukemia.
Max turns to Spider (Wagner Moura), an earthbound crime lord, to help him reach Elysium. This involves hijacking the info inside the head of Armadyne’s CEO (William Fichtner). So Spider installs a handy little computer on the back of Max’s head and fits him up with a mechanical exoskeleton that makes him as strong as one of Armadyne’s robots.
Standing in Max’s way is Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a lethal off-the-books agent of Secretary of Defense Delacourt. The George Zimmerman of our story.
This cautionary tale was written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the South African filmmaker who gave us the sci-fi apartheid allegory, “District 9.” You’ll recall that his boyhood pal Sharlto Copley also starred in that Oscar-nominated film.
“Making this film was as enjoyable as making ‘District 9,’ says Blomkamp. “Maybe fractionally more
enjoyable because politically it was more stable. It wasn’t scary. Basically, I had an easy time because the performances are just really good.”
The Earthbound scenes were filmed in a dump on the outskirts of Mexico City, while many of the Elysium scenes were shot in the wealthy Huixquilucan de Degollado suburbs of Mexico City.
“The film definitely has elements of the discrepancy in wealth that seems to be a widening gap,” says the director. “But, hopefully it is a film where that is woven into the tapestry of the story, in a way that feels like an organic thrill ride.”
Is this how Blomkamp sees Earth 140 years in the future? “No, no, no,” he says. “This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.”