When I looked at my watch, I had been sitting there for about 90 minutes. If I look at my watch during a movie, it is a bad sign. I had forgotten to check the running time for this film before I sat down, but I knew that I was running out of more than time and that this film was running out of everything. After about thirty minutes of percussion I noticed that there was no music, just a lot of percussive sounds coming from an orchestra whose musicians must have been more bored than I was. There was a lot of noise, and I knew I would not go home with any tunes running through my head. But after all, it’s an action film right? Yet the action was about as interesting as the musical score. I looked at my watch.
Matt Damon for all of his body ink isn’t going to make it as a Savior figure even if he does die to save the little girl that I’m sure many in the theater thought was going to end up being his daughter. Set (2054) in a future I think may already be the present, the rich and powerful have removed themselves from the earth to a satellite called: “Elysium” where the air is clear and clean, the life of leisure and comfort is guaranteed, and security is tight and predictably violent. It is a life without sickness as well, because every “citizen” of Elyisum has health care in the form of a full body scanner sort of like the ones in the airport except that in the movie you have lie down. This is a scanner that repairs every injury and heals every illness. But, you have to be a “citizen” otherwise the machine will not work. Behold the plot!
Meanwhile, those left behind on earth, live in squalor policed and punished by android’s and computers. Those lucky enough to have a job work in dangerous conditions, controlled by tough managers who are production minded and quick to demand any risk to keep up the production quotas demanded by the folks on Elysium. Curiously, the “citizens” on Elysium are speaking French (at last for a while) and those down on earth providing for them speak Spanish! But don’t worry, you will not be reading sub-titles for long. Within minutes it all slips into English. I suppose the writer of the screen play thought that this would be enough to make the point.
Our hero/savior gets hurt by the robot police. Having violated his parole and gotten sassy with the robot, he gets wacked, and his arm is broken. He appears before his parole officer who is my second favorite character in the whole show. Sadly, the scene and the dialogue between Max (Matt Damon) and the Parole Officer is too brief. It is the one light bright and clever moment in the entire 120 minutes. In his childhood, Max has been in some kind of Catholic institution: a school or an orphanage. There is no way to tell which it is, and it makes no difference. But there Max meets Frey, another new kid who has just arrived. They become childhood friends in that charming and non-sexual way five or six year olds can become intimate and trusting without becoming intimate. They make a pledge to each other, and then go their separate ways. He becomes a thief. She becomes a nurse.
My favorite character is a Spanish speaking Nun who gets just about as much screen time as the parole officer; but she brings some gentleness and humanity to the chaos on earth. Thank you, Sister. Sister is working at the school or orphanage that brings Max and Frey together. Sister is almost a Virgin Mary figure who somehow knows that Max is destined to be great and do extra ordinary things for the people on earth. She awakens Max’s imagination and potential. Now you have a plot and a motive. If only there was a movie to put it in!
Max is the victim of an industrial accident, and after proving to us that he is resilient, tough, independent, and capable of doing great things having reformed his life after doing time in prison, he gets himself radiated and the robot who pulls him from the radiation chamber thanks him for his service and tells him he has five days to live. (The longest five days of my life.) During those five days, we are the ones exposed, exposed to a series of explosions, fights, violence, and then the bloody surgical implantation of devices that turn him into a super human who will be able to crack the security code system protecting Elysium.
As a result of his “exposure” and a few other mishaps he ends up in a hospital. Of course, the place is a mess, over crowded, dirty, and chaotic because it’s Los Angelus and not Elysium. There he is suddenly reunited to Frey whose life is now “complicated”, she says. Well, of course it is, She has no husband, and has a child dying from leukemia who is being discharged from the hospital because it’s too crowded. Of course her life is “complicated.” I thought it was tragic. However, the wounded hero has come back into her life. Now that is complicated! From then on, they are like everyone else on earth, desperate to get to Elysium.
So there you have it: Max the hero and Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) as the villain on Elysium determined to seize all power and stop every attempt made by the desperate people on earth from sharing in the privilege and luxury of Elysium. A lot of things blow up, crash, break apart, and explode in this movie. If you like that sort of thing woven together by a flimsy plot that raises some serious social and political issues in a shallow sort of way along with a predictable script, this is the movie for you. What actually caught my attention was not Jodie Foster or Matt Damon, but the title which provoked my curiosity and led me back to some old Greek mythology that was a lot more thought-provoking. However, in all honesty, I wanted to see this film because Rush Limbaugh denounced it as “a full-fledged anti-capitalist, pro-socialism movie”. With that recommendation, I couldn’t wait to get there. Then I started looking at my watch.