How the Other Half Lives: In Neill Blomkamp’s Energetic Blockbuster, the 1 Percent Have High-Tailed It to Space
Earth, in Neill Blomkamp’s new science fiction thriller Elysium, set in 2154, is one big wretched slum: arid, diseased, dangerous and overcrowded. There is little hope for its denizens, though at least all are equal in their own miserable destitution. Until they look up.
Their poverty is thrown into sharp relief by a giant orbital space station visible high in the sky above them like some exotic moon, to which the ultra-wealthy have absconded. In this paradisiacal gated community writ large—it resembles an elaborate golf course, dotted with mansions, palm trees and other gold-plated trappings—the rich live extremely well.
Most of Elysium takes place in Los Angeles, a filthy hellhole of stacked homes and narrow streets patrolled by robot police. Max (a ripped, tattooed Matt Damon) is an ex-car thief who works at a factory. One day at work, he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and is told he has five days to live. Unless, that is, he makes it to Elysium, where the rich have developed tanning-bed-like contraptions that will cure any illness. Elysium, however, is assiduously guarded by the sociopathic defense secretary Delacourt (a cold-blooded Jodie Foster); a voyage into space is a death wish. Read More