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Elysium

Elysium (2013) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  109m  •    •  Directed by: Neill Blomkamp.  •  Starring: 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.  •  Music by: Ryan Amon.
        In 2154, the population is divided in two social classes: the wealthy people live in Elysium, a space station with all the resources; the poor people live on the exhausted Earth. In Los Angeles, the former car thief Max da Costa is on parole and works in an unhealthy factory Armadyne managed by the CEO John Carlyle. He dreams of saving money to travel to Elysium. Meanwhile the Secretary of Defense of Elysium, Delacourt, plots a coup d'etat against President Patel, with the support of Carlyle. He programs a software that can override Elysium's data system and make any change, including the president's name to Delacourt. Carlyle uploads the software to his brain to increase its protection. Max is exposed to a lethal amount of radiation in Armadyne and has only five more days of life. He seeks out the criminal Spider expecting to travel to Elysium, where he can use a medical chamber called Med-bay that is capable to heal any disease and save his life. Spider tells that if Max steals profitable information, such as bank accounts, from the brain of Carlyle that is on Earth. Max accepts the proposal without knowing the powerful knowledge in Carlyle's brain. When Delacourt learns that the information she needs to become president was stolen from Carlyle brain, she sends the notorious agent Kruger to hunt down Max and recover the software at any cost.

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Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
Image from: Elysium (2013)
"Above ground you have the Haves, pursuing pleasure, comfort and beauty. Below ground you have the Have-nots, the Workers who are continually adapting to the conditions of labour. Those predisposed toward misery and rebelliousness soon die, such that the survivors become as well adapted to the conditions of their underground life, and as happy in their way, as the Upper-worlders are to theirs." -¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ H.G. Wells ("The Time Machine")

Neill Blomkamp directs "Elysium". The plot? In the near future, the world is starkly divided between the rich and the poor. The rich live in an idyllic floating space station, complete with robot servants, spotless mansions and superb health-care. Fittingly, this station is dubbed 'Elysium', an allusion to the mythological segment of the afterlife reserved for the privileged relatives of Gods. The poor, meanwhile, live on planet earth, which has been reduced to an industrial wasteland rife with pollution, crime, unemployment and marauding gangs of criminals. The poor want to get to Elysium, the rich want to keep them out.

Enter Max (Matt Damon), an ex-con who works at a factory. As employee safety is last on the minds of his bosses, Max is injured at his job and given mere hours to live. Ticked off, and mad as hell, Max straps himself into a robot-suit, jumps aboard a space-ship, lands on Elysium and gets himself some sweet free health-care. Along the way he kills mercenaries, bureaucrats and instigates a little social reformation; Elysium's health-care is now accessible to each and every human being. Elsewhere the film contains a little allegorical subplot; Max must "die so others may live", a gesture which speaks to the film's message of self-sacrifice, altruism and old fashioned sharing.

Every major past and present mode of societal organisation has been but a giant energy accumulation system. Such systems (feudalism, monarchism, chattel slavery, mercantile and late capitalism etc) hinge on the organisation and exploitation of labour, and primarily act in the interests of a minority which organises its state apparatus for the oppression of the majority. In each case, such systems are deemed "natural" or "moral" by the vast majority of human beings. Those who exist within such systems tend to engage in denial, disavowal or tend to remain oblivious as to the workings of the system. Or to quote CLR James, at no point in human history has the vast majority of the planet not been misguided or outright wrong about its overriding belief or organising systems. Eventually, of course, such systems are condemned, forcing them to mutate, though they never break away cleanly from that which came before (there now exists, for example, more slaves globally than at the height of the slave trade).

Though set in the future, "Elysium" offers but an extremely cartoonish version of our contemporary world. Today, roughly eighty percent of the planet lives on less than ten dollars a day, even in MEDCs like the United States over 76 percent of the populace lives paycheck to paycheck, in all countries full employment is inherently impossible (with a 5 to 15 percent rate being deemed a systemic "ideal"), and even in the First World, having 10 to 20 percent of your population in poverty is unavoidable. This is all accepted as standard operating procedure.

Whilst "Elysium" is well intentioned, its little tale of worker revolt ("Metropolis", "Viva Zapata", "Bread and Roses" etc) is far too simplistic for our contemporary world. While Blomkamp's bashing bosses, today's cutting edge critiques of capitalism veer from neo-Marxian critiques (capitalism's many contradictions and cyclical tendencies) to ecological critiques (the absurdity of "limitless growth") to thermodynamic critiques (the systemic inherency of exponential debt creation, poverty and "value" destruction) to proponents of outright monetary reform (the absurdity of our contemporary central banking and interest-based currency creation systems). Scientists have even begun mapping the "heat flows" of money, providing insights too complex to get into here. Suffice to say, most of these angles are ignored by classical and neo-classical economists, or pundits who focus on micro-economics over the macro. With the "experts" so backwards, it's not surprising to find cinema's handling of these issues still firmly entrenched in the 1930s.

Still, you want old-fashioned rich-people-bashing, you got it. Damon has always been drawn to "liberal action heroes", but here he goes all out, sticking it to the One Percent with machine guns and hand grenades. Epitomising the superficiality of American liberalism, Damon then engages in a little financial redistribution. The welfare state, then, is offered as the only solution to the inanities of capitalism. Nevermind that, historically, such measures were implemented by the ruling class specifically to preserve capitalism, to prevent uprisings, to keep the game running, and that such "well meaning redistributive policies" must be as unsustainable as the system they are embedded within. No, in "Eylsium", food-stamps and Medicare save the day!

As politics, "Elysium" is dumb and heavy-handed. As a straightforward action movie, it's worse. Blomkamp's plot is unwieldy, bouncing from one MacGufin to the next, and his action scenes are derivative and lack even the mildest of thrills. Elsewhere, Damon's exo-suit is gratuitously shoehorned into Blomkamp's plot, and the film's villains are a dull trio. Jodie Foster costars in a role reminiscent of her work in "Inside Man", a better popcorn flick about race and class in America.

610 -' Worth one viewing. See "Land of the Dead", "The Molly Maguires", "La Chinoise" and "The Remains of the Day".


Review by tieman64 from the Internet Movie Database.

 

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Oct 24 2016, 12:52