Movie Review: Elysium

Matt Damon stars in the new sci-fi action film Elysium. The sci-fi offers a handful of unexpected themes and social statements that can be missed from the marketed presentation of trailers.

In the year 2154, human beings are separated into two social classes. The very rich have left the slums of an overpopulated Earth. Los Angeles is enveloped in poverty, oppression, and plummeting standards of living. Robots and impersonal interactions plague the streets and exacerbate the pitiable conditions. The wealthy inhabitants of Earth abandoned the planet, and constructed a massive space station utopia known as Elysium.

There is more than just wealth and the Earth’s atmosphere separating the two classes; a language barrier provides commentary into today’s current immigration issue. The primary language on Earth, from the perspective provided in the film, is Spanish. On Elysium, the inhabitants speak the “more civilized” French language, and are always seen to be relaxing by the pools and green lawns of their lavish homes.

The protagonist of Elysium, Max, attempts to escape his sordid past. He grew up as an orphan, but recently has managed to keep a steady job and avoid his life of crime. When he faces an accident that leaves him with five days to live, desperation forces him to rely on his former lifestyle in order to reach Elysium to receive medical treatment to allow him to keep living.

Healthcare contrasts between first and third world countries are brought to light and play a large role in the plotline. In the film, there are machines in each house that upon a verification of citizenship will immediately restore and heal the user. Although this technology does not exist today, the director seems to be making a claim that immigrants perceive modern medicine and universal healthcare as a perfect solution to all ailments. Although this is not the case, the difference between the modern healthcare systems is actually quite substantial in some cases.

The desire to continue living, despite the scantiest of living conditions, forces individuals like Max to risk everything to enter a prohibited society and location. Elysium is unique as it serves to provide a relevant backstory to immigrants and the problems they face, as well as insight into their hopes and dreams. Without downplaying the efforts of modern immigrants, the attempts and backstories of the characters are at times hollow and try too hard to play at the heartstrings of the audience. Overall, the movie is effective in bringing the viewer to contemplate his or her way of life, and the opportunities that have or have not been provided. Even better, the movie is laced with fast-paced action and some aggressive explosions.

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