Neil Blomkamp follows up his auspicious debut District 9 with Elysium, a science-fiction that's just as violent and icky as his first feature but without the deftness of story or subtext to justify it.
There's one diseased earthling she's particularly concerned about; Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), a petty criminal outfitted with a bulky but powerful mechanical exoskeleton, who took one last heist job in order to buy his way up to Elysium. What Max doesn't know is that what he's stolen is valuable computer code that can override the space station's political administration... because, y'know, if a computer says the president's not the president, it must be so, right?
Intent on retrieving this confusing McGuffin, Delacourt charges maniacal sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copely playing a much less likable version of his 'Howling Mad' Murdoch from The A-Team) with hunting down Max, who's gotten a bit preoccupied trying to protect his childhood sweetheart Frey (Alice Braga) and her terminally ill daughter.
I'd feel cruel about chastising a summer blockbuster for daring to make a social commentary on pertinent issues, but worthwhile message or no worthwhile message, the writing just isn't very good. Blomkamp's willingness to exploit a woman and child in peril for as long as he does suggests a sorry lack of creativity in the story department, and a lack of faith in his characters to maintain our attention.
He's right about that: these characters didn't interest me at all. There are few things as uncomfortable as watching fine actors struggling with shallow material. Be it Foster's conspicuously affected line readings or the unbearable ham-handedness of supporting players Copley and Wagner Moura, none of the performances in Elysium convinced or captivated me.
** out of ****