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Space Is the Place 

Will Matt Damon get to use the magic healing booth on the space station? The suspense is killing us!

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp follows up his strong feature-directing debut, District 9, with another solid sci-fi effort in Elysium, a film that delivers terrific action along with a reasonable amount of smarts.

Now, I know this will sound a bit confusing, but Elysium is also a little on the stupid and illogical side, especially when considering its ending. I realize I just complimented the film for being smart. Well, it is as stupid as it is smart at times. It's very possible to be both dumb and brilliant in the same movie. Heck, Guillermo del Toro did just that with his Pacific Rim earlier this summer.

It's about 140 years in the future and man has, not surprisingly, screwed up the planet real good. It's one big garbage heap (shades of Wall-E and Idiocracy) and the planet's wealthy people have abandoned Earth for a bitchin' space station in the sky.

This space station, Elysium, has everything a rich bitch would want. It's got mansions, pools, sweet landscaping, 10 different kinds of tacos and, most notably, healing booths. These healing booths don't just fix a bruised knee or a paper cut. They cure cancer, and even reconstruct one's face after it has been blown apart by a grenade thing.

Matt Damon has shaved his head to play Max, an ex-con factory worker who puts together the droids that police the decrepit Earth. One morning, he gets sassy with one of these very droids and gets his arm broken for the effort. Then, while working under the watchful eye of the worst boss ever (William Fichtner, getting some cool points back after his dreadful turn in The Lone Ranger), Max microwaves himself and suffers radiation poisoning. With only five days to live, the only thing that will save him is a trip to Elysium.

While Elysium has the all-healing chambers, the snoots in the sky don't allow Earth residents to use them. So Max can't just hop a space shuttle and get fixed up. After a visit to Spider (Wagner Moura) his former crime boss, Max gets a super-weapon skeleton welded to his body (echoes of Robocop) and must agree to download a bunch of secret stuff into his brain in order to get a trip to the space station. Yes, it's all a little farfetched.

Farfetched and enjoyable, thanks to a stellar performance from Damon and some of the year's best special effects work. The look of the dirty planet, the pristine space station ... it's all spectacularly done.

Taking things up another notch is Sharlto Copley playing against type as a bad guy hunting Max. Copley is many miles away from his affable stooge in District 9; he's a seriously awful beast in this one with a fantastic and crazy accent. Jodie Foster gets some of her best work in years as Delacourt, defense minister for Elysium. She also has a great accent, and has no problem shooting down ships full of earthly residents trying to enter Elysium.

Elysium brings on the super-cool gadgetry and brainy sci-fi up until its finale, where the whole thing nearly falls apart. I won't give away the ending, but I will tell you it is rather dumb and illogical for a movie that was so smart up until the final minutes. Also, Blomkamp, who delivers terrific action scenes throughout his film, settles for incomprehensive Michael Bay-type editing for the final showdown. It's as if he just switched his style for the final reel.

Flaws and all, Elysium is still well worth your time, and further establishes Blomkamp as one of the modern film era's king of sci-fi. He gets sole credit for the screenplay on this one, so its combined brilliance and silliness rest entirely in his creative hands.

As for Damon, he looks pretty badass with a steel skeleton grafted to his body and a computer drilled into his head. With this, and his turn in Behind the Candelabra, the actor is having a banner year.

Elysium
Rated R · 109 minutes · 2013
Official Site: www.itsbetterupthere.com/site
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Producer: Bill Block, Neill Blomkamp, Simon Kinberg and Sue Baden-Powell
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Brandon Auret, Josh Blacker, Emma Tremblay, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Maxwell Cotton, Faran Tahir, Adrian Holmes and Jared Keeso

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What others are saying (11)

The Coast Halifax Elysium Earth gets so, so bad, guys. by Tara Thorne 08/08/2013
Portland Mercury Explosions in the Sky On Neill Blomkamp's Elysium (or, Occupy Outer Space). by Erik Henriksen 08/07/2013
8 more reviews...
Memphis Flyer Upstairs, Downstairs District 9 director takes another look at futuristic dystopia. by Greg Akers 08/08/2013
East Bay Express Elysium An Apocalypse-of-the-Month Club selection. by Kelly Vance 08/09/2013
The North Coast Journal Weekly Occupy Space Station Damon engages in futuristic class warfare by John J. Bennett 08/15/2013
LA Weekly Elysium Is Too Heavy for Matt Damon to Carry by Stephanie Zacharek 08/08/2013
Creative Loafing Tampa Matt Damon fights the future in Elysium Neill Blomkamp's District 9 follow-up elevates the standard sci-fi shoot ’em up. by Joe Bardi 08/09/2013
Gambit Review: Elysium Ken Korman on the Matt Damon-Jodie Foster summer blockbuster, where action sequence cliches beat out sharp social satire by Ken Korman 08/13/2013
Arkansas Times Dull dystopia 'Elysium' lays it on thick. by Mike Powell 08/15/2013
Colorado Springs Independent Elysium squanders its style on painfully obvious allegory As visually striking as Elysium is, we're never for a moment allowed to forget that this is A Movie That Says Something Important About Our Time. by Scott Renshaw 08/07/2013

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