By 2154, the gap between rich and poor has widened to, oh, about 1,200 miles or so. That's 1,200 miles straight up, by the way, as anyone you'd call wealthy has moved up to the Elysium space station, a land of trees, rolling hills, swimming pools, and large, pristine houses. Robotic servants tend to everyone's needs, medical science can heal virtually anything, and life is Perfect.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, life is a grim struggle just to survive for most. For example, Matt Damon (Contagion) is Max, an ex-con / former car thief who has a dreadful job in a factory making some of the robots that help out on Elysium, where Max has longed to go since he was a child. But he's terribly glad to have the job, because even with a presumably steady income he's living in a shantytown of some sort. It's possible to be something like middle-class, with a decent place to live and enough to eat, but even then you're not exactly enjoying life.

Max grew up in an orphanage, where his best friend was a girl named Frey (Alice Braga, The Rite). She's one of the sort-of middle-class, with a job as a nurse at the most overcrowded hospital you've ever seen. She also has a daughter who's terribly sick, so she's definitely not enjoying life very much. When a robotic officer beats Max up for making a joke -- at least it wasn't one of the kind of robots he builds -- he reconnects with Frey just in time for things to go even more wrong. A completely avoidable industrial accident leaves Max ill and dying, and getting to Elysium moves to the top of his bucket list.

Speaking of Elysium, Jodie Foster (The Brave One) as Defense Secretary Delacourt thinks that life would be even more perfect if she didn't have to worry about the president (Faran Tahir, Star Trek) scolding her for blowing up the shuttles full of illegal aliens that occasionally try to land and evade capture long enough to use a Med-Pod to heal themselves. This is no easy task.

In hopes of planning a coup, she enlists the help of one John Carlyle (William Fichtner, The Lone Ranger), CEO of the factory where Max works, who doesn't like people to breathe on him. I'm not kidding. He writes a program that's vital to Delacourt's plans, and it's about then that all the things that haven't already gone wrong, start going wrong.

It isn't a long movie, but there's so much packed into it that I've barely scratched the surface of everything that happens. There's very much a District 9 sort of vibe going on, which isn't too surprising considering that the two films have the same director (Neill Blomkamp), plus some other behind the scenes people, plus actor Sharlto Copley, who played poor, overwhelmed Wikus Van De Merwe. He's, erm, a lot less overwhelmed here, and infinitely less likable, as one of Delacourt's hired guns, Kruger.

There's really too much packed into the movie, and it ended up feeling rushed, so I can't give it quite as high a score as I was hoping. Still, it's a solid four and a quarter out of five, which is more than most movies have managed so far this year. And I'm not just saying that because I think Matt Damon is so wonderful. Well, not entirely. Promise.

Matt Damon as Max Da Costa. He can save me anytime.


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