Monday, September 23, 2013

Paradise breached

“Elysium” is a mostly sleek but oft-unaffecting scifi caper, starring Matt Damon as an ambitious lower class citizen hoping to set foot on the space station Elysium, which is inhabited by Earthlings privileged enough to leave their overly polluted home planet. Directed by “District 9’s” Neil Blomkamp, it also stars Sharlto Copley as a ruthless assassin, Kruger, who is targeting Damon’s character Max.

Not that Damon isn’t properly sympathetic, it’s just that his character isn’t very interesting apart from his steadfast belief that he will cross the boundaries of Elysium one day, and perhaps live there as well. But get there, he does, just not in the way he expected. A work-related accident leads to his bonding with a powerful exo-suit, which Max uses to fight Kruger, a henchman of Elysium’s corrupt defense secretary Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster).

The story’s attention to class divide is timely. Foster as a cold and condescending manipulatrix is impressive, but it does get repetitive after a bit. Damon is visually intimidating; he’s buff and has a mean-looking cybernetic harness, but the enhanced Max just has the appeal of a Universal Soldier. The enmity with Copley’s character is pretty by-the-numbers, while the action scenes are quite average. The sterile environment of Elysium reflects the apathy of its more disaffected denizens, we get that, but overall, all that’s elicited is indifference for the less-than-spectacular story and conflicts.

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