|'that some of these scenes happen in horribly dated pastel flashbacks says something to Blomkamp's style here, which still needs huge amounts of polish'|
The stuttering, stumbling Elysium once again shows off Neill Blomkamp's now-established dirty, mechanical style, but somehow, as with District 9, it seems as though someone has forgotten to oil the moving parts. Blomkamp's highly moral Science-Fiction once again takes on a position of ethical responsibility, and does so well with it, but forgets that the surrounding content needs something to keep us interested.
That interest is certainly not to be found in what must be one of the most token and unsuccessful on-screen flirtations ever. Alice Braga's Frey has a handful of scenes through which we are meant to infer that Matt Damon fancies more than fluttering his eyelashes at her, but they're tame and passionless and there's no reason to invest or believe in the fact that he will go to war for her, or vice versa.
That some of these scenes happen in horribly dated pastel flashbacks says something to Blomkamp's style, which still needs huge amounts of polish. Grime, to the director, apparently means shaky-cam and lens flare induced flashbacks. It doesn't work and not only that, it can be incredibly annoying, adding remarkably little to the narrative, which is much better in the early stages with Sharlto Copley's hulking security agent, before he becomes a stock villain.
Where Elysium works is where the narrative focuses on the core dilemma: the haves versus the have nots. The former reside on the titular, 2001-alike circular habitat, living the high life under the watchful eye of Jodie Foster's defence secretary. The latter are stuck in this film's equivalent of district 9; Los Angeles, struggling to eke out an existence. Throughout, there's a strong pang that the target is more narrow of focus than simply sparring off the upper classes and the proles. A strong current of health problems is driven through explicitly by Max (Damon) contracting an illness early doors. The conclusion prominently involves health droids and Frey is employed as a nurse. Blomkamp excels in spearing the pay-for-it-if-you-can-afford-it nature of US healthcare, arguing successfully that health is a right, not a privilege for those with enough dollars to join the space race.
This is a noble cause, well pursued but the rest of the film is incredibly weak. Foster is career worst, mumbling all of the worst bits of dialogue with zero conviction and even less menace. Meanwhile the plot advances with even more coincidence than this sort of thing would normally require. The incredible contrivances that form the setup are just glaringly lazy plot manipulations, pulling you out of a story that hardly ever threatens to fully involve you any way.