This review was previously published in my column at Towleroad
In the future everyone has trouble finding good healthcare, there is no middle class, and Los Angeles is a cesspool. So far, so believable. By the future you mean next week, right? Dystopian fantasies work best when they prey on current fears and exaggerate like a mofo. ELYSIUM knows just where we hurt, aiming squarely for our 'have-not' wounds. Though there is no direct talk of politics in Neill Blomkamp's action flick / sci-fi allegory, this 22nd century Earth is a place where the Right Wing have obviously long since won the political wars. The Koch Brothers and Friends, the "Corporations are People!" set, have vacated the filthy planet altogether to rule from afar and horde their wealth. They orbit the earth in mouthwatering luxury aboard the titular space station Elysium which spins like a pricey slo-mo hamster wheel (think 2001: A Space Odyssey. Add bling, swimming pools and golf courses), though it's undoubtedly the 99% who are powering it with their sweaty manual labor.
One such laborer is Max DaCosta (Matt Damon) who is foolishly hoping to 'work his way up' and buy a ticket to Elysium. He's an ex-con, though, and delusional about his future prospects. Even his childhood love Frey (Alice Braga), a stand-up citizen and steadily employed nurse can't afford to move there. In the future good health care is only available to the 1% despite technology so advanced that anything this side of death is instantaneously curable (think magic not medicine) and Max and Frey are out of luck. Socioeconomic mobility is as extinct as the weird animals that Max and Frey look at in picture books as children in flashbacks -- what the hell is a giraffe?
And also: why is Jodie Foster so pissed off???