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"Elysium": In Space, No One Can Hear You Be the 99 Percent 

Wednesday, Aug 7 2013
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As didactic as science fiction gets, Elysium delivers an allegory about the haves and have-nots — and the plight of illegal immigrants — that's so blunt, it operates as little more than a cacophonous CG-ified lecture. Working in the same simplistic vein as his prior District 9, writer/director Neill Blomkamp's tale concerns a future in which Earth's poor (largely Hispanic) live in squalid, polluted slums and the rich (largely Caucasian) enjoy the finer things — including cure-all medical facilities — on the titular orbiting space station. After suffering a lethal dose of radiation poisoning, Matt Damon's working-class everyman has an exoskeleton grafted to his body so he can pull of a heist that'll nab him a ticket to Elysium. However, when the robbery goes wrong and Damon winds up with info on a coup being staged by Jodie Foster's would-be tyrant, he finds himself on the run from her murderous forces, led by Sharlto Copley's sword-wielding assassin. Blomkamp sets up his revolt-of-the-99-percent premise in stark black-and-white terms and then stubbornly refuses to add any nuance; instead, his story proves to be one long, preachy slog toward socialist victory via the very Christ-like martyrdom suggested by a nun's early prophesy. Meanwhile, the director shoots his droid-and-machine gun action with such incoherent spasticity that — coupled with his refusal to spend any time exploring the thinly sketched orbital paradise — it eventually seems as if he has no faith in either his imagery or his central conceit.

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Nick Schager

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