A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
In a summer of antiseptic effects spectacles, "Elysium" stands out for its grime and intensity, as well as the bluntness of its class allegory. The movie won't win many points for originality or logic. But when the blockbuster competition wants only new ways to repackage Wolverine and Superman, it's weirdly refreshing to watch a film that seeks new ways to repackage "Mad Max," "Blade Runner," "Robocop," and elements from Kathryn Bigelow and David Cronenberg.
The film is set in 2154, when the planet has been ravaged by disease, pollution, and overpopulation. The wealthiest now live on a space station called Elysium, which can be seen in the clouds from Earth below. Max (Matt Damon) has grown up watching Elysium from his rundown, largely Latino L.A. neighborhood. A reformed car thief now working in a grueling factory job—he's lucky to have it, he's sneeringly informed—Max is trying to keep things together in a society openly rigged against the poor.
It's not easy. Amid a gritty cityscape filled with cluttered streets and dirty, crowded hospitals, a robot police force makes arrests indiscriminately, with no apparent restraints on brutality. Sentencing is automated, administered by a droid whose voice has the kind of crackle you hear when ordering at a drive-thru. No sooner is Max done with his latest legal entanglement than a radiation accident at the plant leaves him with only days to live. He's done for—unless he can get to Elysium, where healing pods fix all medical problems in seconds.
On this space "habitat," we follow the defense secretary (Jodie Foster), who offers a vigorous defense of her right to use unlimited force to benefit the liberty of a few. In a not-so-subtle commentary on the immigration debate, she shoots down refugees who try to land. She's also plotting a coup with the help of a wormy CEO (William Fichtner) on Earth. Max's attempt to track down the latter man and download information from his brain—echoes of "Strange Days"—makes for one of the film's most excitingly absurd sequences, as the hero and his former auto-thief partner (Diego Luna) intercept this bigwig's crashing private jet.