Elysium has all the signs of being a movie to talk about, whether you liked it or not. It’s also one of those movies that doesn’t require you to like it as much as it requires you to sift through the myriad of issues it’s addressing. It’s also worth mentioning that at the time Elysium was being made, Occupy Wall street was still going strong. You’ll see why, shortly.
It’s the story of Max (Matt Damon), a former car thief turned working class guy who’s life has dwindled (or perhaps settled) into the pattern of day by day survival. He lives on Earth which has crumbled down to an apocalyptic atmosphere. It’s also swarming with tired and defeated faces that laugh with an edge of hysteria. These worn out souls have given up on life being anything more than this constant slog while above them, in sterile perfection, Elysium hovers. It’s a haven for the rich that have long since fled Earth.
As plot-lines go, the movie doesn’t bother to hide the strains of a movie checklist. Max learns the girl he’s always pined for is back in town, a lovely, visibly worn doctor named Frey (Alice Braga). Then he eventually suffers a personal tragedy by way of a horrible on the job accident that leaves him so heavily radiated that he’s left with mere days to live. And thus, it leads him to realize that his only cure is in the advanced medical technology on Elysium.
If I were to go on plot alone, I would have to say that Elysium is a standard summer action flick with explosions, mechanical exoskeletons and an icy villain that holds the key to the castle. Fine to watch but nothing that hasn’t been done before and better. However, Elysium is actually an earnest essay that urges us to look beyond the veil. The hundreds of faces that Max encounters and ultimately tries to save are desperate, despairing and dying. They are also overwhelming, with bodies as far as the eye can see. They are a visual representation of many things. It could be a discussion on overpopulation, on immigration, or even on the very fact that there are so many of us that can barely survive.
On the flip side, the incredibly pampered inhabitants of Elysium are seemingly out of touch with real life, living in what amounts to a perfect bubble. They live high above the Earth, clean and untouched by any of the hardship below. This is why I mentioned Occupy Wall Street. Occupy raised questions on the issue of social and economic imbalance and of the resulting classism. Elysium is literally hovering above an overworked Earth with a gap between them that is fiercely guarded by Jodie Foster’s Delacourt, a woman who is obsessively devoted with protecting Elysium’s picture-perfect way of life.
In the end, I did like the movie for the story beneath the plot. Don’t let the trailer fool you. Yes, it’s an action movie. And yes, Matt Damon beats up people while fused with a metal exoskeleton. There is unflinching violence in this movie. But what’s happening on the surface of the film isn’t as important as what’s going on beneath it. I suggest paying attention to that part because that’s the hidden gold.
Elysium is now playing in theaters everywhere.
By Nicole Carter