With his previous hit District 9 and now Elysium, South African director Neill Blomkamp has cornered a specific sub-genre: the sci-fi socialist action flick. In the Jo'berg-set debut from 2009, the crustacean-like aliens scavenge garbage piles and live in a filthy shantytown, segregated from the human population. District 9 is an alien film, with spaceships and laser guns, but it's actually a clever allegory about class and institutional discrimination.
Now in his new film set in 2154, Earth has become overcrowded and over-polluted. The wealthiest class has fled to live in the orbiting utopia called Elysium, where every house has a manicured lawn and all diseases can be cured, while the poor are left stranded on this slum-like planet, persecuted by fascist droids and money-mad corporate types. Inequality is so glaring that unsurprisingly, a revolution, or at least a few space shuttles full of desperadoes, is inevitable.
Matt Damon plays Max, an orphaned boy and legendary ex-carjacker who now earns his living working in a factory. But as is always the case everywhere in the world, workers are disposable. When Max is exposed to radioactivity and ditched by his cold-blooded capitalist employers, he teams up with underground data bandits and human smugglers (the term has a positive vibe here) to rocket himself off from Earth and breach into Elysium, where he can be healed. Obstructing his path are the brutal paramilitary soldier Kruger (Sharlto Copley, in thick South African accent) and Minister Delacourt (Jodie Foster), Elysium's Homeland Security strongwoman who's always eager to zap illegal immigrants into galactic dust.
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