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In the year 2159 two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes, a government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn't stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.
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Some reviewers incorrectly criticize the acting. The acting is actually the most redeeming factor of Elysium. Matt Damon and Jodi Foster put in stellar performances as does the villain Kruger played by Sharlto Copley ("Wikus" from District 9) who is clearly a super talented actor showing two great performances of very different characters.
Jodi Foster does a great job of being an elitist snob who speaks with an Elysium accent which is cleverly chosen to be based on French. This shows someone involved with the script is educated. Historically, French is the language of the elitist classes. Until relatively recently the English nobility including the Monarch spoke French at Court and among themselves to be aloof from the common people.
The problem with Elysium lies with the lack of character development, weak science fiction and excessive action sequences, not the acting.
The premise of the story is excellent as is the cast and production values.The elements of a great sci-fi drama/adventure film are all there but are not put together properly.
The Frey + Max romance is not developed at all. There is a notion of a childhood friendship but not a romantic relationship. Yet, the commitment required for someone to help as much as Frey did has to be either strong friendship bond or romantic. And then 3/4 into it, Frey turns into an opportunist -- not a friend or a lover.
Frey's demands for Max to take her daughter with him show she doesn't care about Max and just wants Max to heal her daughter (from some other relationship that is never explained). So the warm feelings for Frey get tossed out and her motivations for ever helping Max become suspect.
By the end, Frey is just a moocher preying on Max's determination to make it to Elysium to save his own life and her daughter's because she has thrust that burden on him. The attempt to have Max and the daughter connect with some shared story is an obvious, feeble attempt to save a fatally broken plot.
And Max is lethally dosed before we care much about whether he lives or dies. I mean at the time, we think heck, dying is better than that dead end abyss he's condemned to wallow in. He's living alone, doing nothing of consequence without any hope for anything to improve. Then suddenly, he's got to go "back" to Spider and offer to work for him "again". The previous relationship with Spider is all news to the audience and we don't know whether Spider is a good guy or bad guy -- he's a gangster of course but seems to be on Max's side.
And then, bang, bang, bang and everyone is on Elysium shooting at each other.
Too much time is spent trying to make an unrealistic and improperly established on-Elysium ad hoc fire fight into a meaningful climatic final battle between villain and hero. It falls flat because the villain and hero barely know who each other are and the vilain is unrealistically resurrected in a deus ex machina.
And then Spider shows up tapping on keyboards all ready take over the entire Elysium complex because he has a code for a "reboot" that can make someone president!? I mean really, no one is going to question why there's a new president that they didn't elect? What? Spider pulls another deus ex machina and voila! everyone is a citizen with the same "reboot" code that was going to make Jodi Foster president. What? That's just silly.
The science fiction was all fiction that required way too much suspension of disbelief.