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Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Faran Tahir

Director: Neil Blomkamp

The year is 2154 and life is hell for the luckless inhabitants of the overpopulated, ruined Earth where crime and poverty are rampant; they long to escape their miserable existence. The ‘postcode’ to cherish is outer space where the rich and privileged few live in luxury circling the planet in the magnificent space station Elysium.

But the upper classes are about to suffer a major downer when shaven-headed Earth dweller Matt Damon, who is facing death after a lethal dose of radiation, sets out to save his life and everyone else on the planet by undertaking a dangerous mission that pits him against stony-faced Elysium Secretary Jodie Foster and her killer cohorts…

South African writer and director Neil Blomkamp who hit the critical and box-office jackpot in 2009 with his low budget, high impact debut film District 9, impressively proves himself more than capable of handling a high-budget movie and Hollywood’s finest accessories, notably vivid special effects. Elysium with its mega-million budget demonstrates his potent storytelling talents as he creates a superb science fiction epic told with force and action and strangling suspense.

Unlike so many contemporary science fiction movies, Blomkamp succeeds in striking a convincing balance between spectacle and human drama.

The picture he creates of a dystopic destroyed world, much of it filmed on location in Mexico, is scarily convincing while movie magic brings Elysium and robots to intense life. But while Elysium is visually stunning, Blomkamp never allows the scenery to overwhelm human drama. In that respect buffed up and bald Damon (“You used to be a legend, and now what?”) is particularly effective, more thug than thinker while Foster’s innate coldness really suits her conniving role. Sharlto Copley splendidly plays Foster’s psychotic henchman, complete with a South African accent that adds to his innate nastiness.

Not everything has changed in 2154 however. If you have ever wasted time trying to contact someone/something by telephone and been forced to spend many minutes listening to canned instruction and dreadful music, you should relish the robot who asks, “Would you like to talk to a human?”

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour by deluxe.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Sep 2013