It’s hard to put down a movie like “Elysium.” Let’s rephrase that: it’s actually quite easy to put down a movie like “Elysium” – it just gives us no pleasure in doing so. It’s a movie that urges people to think of the needs of others, and the satisfaction that comes from helping the less fortunate. A noble cause, to be sure, but in order to make his point, writer/director Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) resorts to painting with an awfully broad brush, and the complex issues of health care and the distribution of wealth that “Elysium” seeks to tackle are marginalized by half. What’s left to enjoy are the visuals and some visceral hand-to-hand combat, which is nice (think “Terminator 2,” with humans), but this is a movie that had bigger fish to fry, and let them off the hook.
Set in the year 2154, Earth has become decimated by overpopulation and depleted natural resources. The wealthiest people have abandoned Earth to live on Elysium, an orbiting space station with the technology to cure any sickness in seconds. Max (Matt Damon) is a former car thief trying to live an honest life working on a factory line. Max is exposed to a fatal dose of radiation on the job, and in return the company gives him pills to manage his pain and sends him on his way. Max, with only days to live, hits up his former crime boss Spider (Wagner Moura) for a chance to jump on one of his bootleg trips to Elysium with the hope that he can heal himself. Spider agrees to help him, but Max must pull a suicide mission first. In doing so, however, they find a way to share Elysium’s technological advances with everyone on Earth; they’ll just have to get past Elysium defense secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her dirtbag sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) first.