Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Review: Elysium

World of Blackout Film Review

Elysium Poster

Elysium (Mild-spoilers)
Cert: 15 / 109 mins / Dir. Neill Blomkamp

Well, this was a surprise (although it really shouldn't have been, since I thoroughly enjoyed District 9). Despite a trailer that didn't convince me, I thought Elysium was pretty awesome. Sure, the rich/poor, bad/good scenario is almost as cack-handedly applied as in In Time, and elsewhere the film borrows rather heavily from both Iron Man and The Matrix trilogy; but when it comes down to it, Elysium is compellingly told and fucking good fun.

The credit for this lies with writer-director Blomkamp, who's not afraid to give an also-ran story all he's got, with absolute conviction. He's also not afraid to give us a villain in Sharlto Copley, 'Kruger', who's so genuinely, massively unlikeable that I have to applaud all concerned for his character. The story weaves without twisting or being needlessly complex; just enough to keep everything ticking along nicely and take the characters from one locale (read: shootout) to the next. And what shootouts… the tech and weaponry are duly explained, filed away and then brought back out to play at opportune moments. There's a convincing amount of heft to the violence without it being gratuitous, and the film does earn the 15 certificate.

Keeping things bubbling under the brilliant-bar are the slightly pantomime performances from Jodie Foster and William Fichtner*1, the one-dimensionality of Matt Damon and Alice Braga's characters*2, and the niggling thought that underneath it all, Damon's hero, Max doesn't have any 'divine right' to succeed. As an audience we're willing him to win, but only because he's painted as the protagonist; his isn't an extraordinary back-story, and no special circumstances mark him out for greatness*3 (in fact, it's largely his own actions of self-preservation that bring about the setbacks in his story anyway). Ultimately, if Max hadn't taken up his quest, it's doubtable that things would have gotten any worse for the population of Earth, and for the first two acts of the film none of his actions are born out of altruism. The ending may try to signpost the movie as The Hero's Journey ends here, but the road we've travelled has been a parallel one until that point.

But y'know; there's shouting, swearing and lunatics with knives, guns and grenades. So, every cloud…

I'd have preferred more ambiguity (or just neutrality) between the goodies and baddies, and also less shaky-cam, but Elysium stands head-and-shoulders above most of its class this year. Those punches smart, and it's thanks to Neill Blomkamp.

When you're ready Neill, you can get Halo back on the burner...

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Film > Trailer.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
I did.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Very, very almost.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
For big and loud, cinema (but the frequent shaky-cam may be a problem for you at that size).

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
Hell, yeah.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Not that I heard. Which is a shame, because there were plenty of moments for it.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
In your opinion, which actor would have made a more engaging Max?

*1 Fichtner's not 'terrible' in this, but he had a better part in The Lone Ranger, frankly.
*2 Again, not badly done as such, but a lot of other actors could have played their roles, and many would have brought more character to them.
*3 Having a nun tell him he's special doesn't count, I'm afraid.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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