Anyone who thought District 9 might be some sort of newcomer fluke needs only watch the first few minutes of Elysium to see that Neill Blomkamp is the real thing: a visionary filmmaker with a headful of dystopia and the story-telling ability to give it some punch.
Blomkamp used an invasion by alien mantises in District 9 to tell a story about racism and fear. This time, with Elysium, he uses futuristic fiction as the springboard to a larger comment on the distance between the haves and have-nots -- including that most slippery of spans, the empathy gap.
So he pictures an Earth near the middle of the next century, when overcrowding and pollution have turned the planet into a dusty mess of urban sprawl. Anyone with any sense -- that is, anyone with any money -- has left the planet to live aboard a luxurious space station circling the Earth, called Elysium.
People suffer and die of diseases like leukemia on Earth. But residents of Elysium have access to what look like curative self-tanning beds that can treat and dismiss any terminal illness in just seconds. Needless to say, that kind of equipment isn't available on Earth, and a ticket to Elysium is out of the financial reach of most Earthlings.
Not that there aren't Earthfolk who try to sneak aboard the space station. But they're either blasted out of the sky or hunted down for deportation by the station's icy chief of homeland security, Delacourt (Jodie Foster, with a bizarre mid-Atlantic accent).
Back on Earth, a lowly worker named Max (Matt Damon) works in a factory manufacturing the droids that serve as law enforcement on the planet. He's on the government's watch list because of a past history of car theft. But he's trying to go straight -- until a careless supervisor's order causes Max to be blasted with a terminal dose of radiation.
The factory gives him enough pain killers to keep him working until he dies. Instead, he goes to one of his old criminal running buddies and offers to do anything necessary to get to Elysium, where the med-pods could save his life.
This review continues on my website.