Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013)

South Africa and I go way back. I’ve travelled out there numerous times, I’ve been good friends with people from the country and I listen to music emanating out of that country… you could say we’re good buddies. Or “brews”, if you want to pronounce “bros” in the local tongue. You see, I’ve always had a bit of a thing for that Afrikaaner accent… I can’t escape it. It’s a bizarre hybrid of Dutch and Australian to my ears, and I love it. But South Africans in movies? Well… they’re not common place are they? Ok, aside from Charlize Theron, but her accent disappeared long ago. No, the movie that really drew attention to South Africa in modern years that wasn’t about Nelson Mandela or diamonds was the sci-fi romp called District 9. The Phage actually watched this movie at the cinema whilst in Johannesburg… now that’s dedication to the silver screen, right? What’s more, we bloody loved it too. It introduced us to the winning combination of director Neil Blomkamp and actor Sharlto Copley. So when we heard that a new movie was due, featuring these two… well, we got all excited. That movie is Elysium.

Elysium (2013)

Lamentably, Elysium isn’t a sequel to District 9, which ended on the most spectacularly melancholy of cliffhangers. Whether we’ll ever see another District movie, I’m unsure. Especially as Blomkamp now has his new movie, Chappie, greenlit by the studios. That film, by the way, is also due to star Sharlto Copley, alongside Dev Patel and two members of “zef” rap group Die Antwoord. It’s also set back in South Africa, so at least it’ll scratch my itch for South African accents once again…

Elysium (2013)

But back on track, Elysium does not focus on South Africa, although several characters are from there! No, Elysium focuses on the slummed out Los Angeles of 2154. Earth’s an overcrowded, underfunded, disease-ridden wreck. All of the wealthy folks have fled the planet to live on an orbiting space station known as Elysium. A place where no-one gets sick, and apparently no-one dies! But getting there? Pretty hard! Either you have a lot of money or you hop on an illegal shuttle and hope that Jodie Foster‘s Secretary Delacourt doesn’t have you shot down. But when Max (Matt Damon) has a terminal accident on Earth, he tries to get up to Elysium to be healed by undertaking a kidnap job that lands him in a plot that’s far greater than he initially imagined… bringing about the hungry wrath of sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley) in the process.

Elysium is not District 9. To some this will be a relief, to others a shame. For me, it’s a shame. But that being said, Elysium is in itself not a bad film… in fact, it’s quite good! It’s just hard to love it when District 9 did so much right and was so insightful and clever in its subject matter. What Elysium does right is its beautiful cinematography, stunning visual effects and highly capable acting from Damon and Copley… what it doesn’t do right is… well, Jodie Foster

Elysium (2013)

You see, the problem is that her character felt forced and fake. Delacourt is a power hungry woman with a detestation for all of Earth’s humankind. But why? What’s the cause of this malice? Why is she power hungry? None of this is answered. She’s just a cookie-cutter “bad guy” with no back story. A good villain always has a back story… this one lacked it and also lacked much in the way of character overall. Thankfully, the “bad guy” mantle is ably picked up by Sharlto Copley as Kruger – brandishing that fabulous broad South African accent to boot. I’m a big supporter of Copley (even in The A-Team) and this again reaffirms my belief he should be cast more often. Maybe even by people other than Neil Blomkamp! Mention of course also has to go to Matt Damon – an actor that’s always reliable nowadays. Elysium is no different in that respect. Sure, it won’t win him any plaudits, but it’s a solid performance from Damon.

So what of my old friend, the plot? It worked. It has its twists and turns to add depth and intrigue, but nothing out-and-out shocking. That’s not necessarily a huge slur against the movie in itself, but it would have been nice to be caught off-guard a little more often. I think the film was helped along somewhat by the stunning visual effects – Blomkamp really shines with the way he shows his vision to the audience. Much like District 9, Elysium is gritty, grimey and shot in a way that really eschews the huge bombastic Hollywood-esque shots. Indeed, Elysium is easily the biggest and best “armageddon” style film of the summer – surpassing Oblivion and After Earth effortlessly.

Elysium again demonstrates why Neil Blomkamp should be seen as one of the true great sci-fi writers and directors of the 21st Century. In The Phage‘s eyes, he’s yet to make a misstep. It will come, we’ve no doubts about that, but for now we’re really stoked on seeing Chappie when it lands in a year or two’s time at the cinemas. Elysium is a gripping slice of sci-fi action, with solid performances from Damon and Copley. It’s just a shame it’s let down quite hard by lacklustre characterisation of Foster‘s Delacourt. But this can be overlooked… and should be, as it definitely merits a viewing.

So bru, mar love for all things Sath Ifrican is still pretty much intact, eh? Yassas, mar boy Sharlto really brings it with that lekker accent and die plot is bagkat. Essentially… Elysium is pretty damn good and deserves to be seen, whether you’ve a hankering for some SA accents or not… But if you do… well, you best start revising your Afrikaans nursery rhymes whilst you’re at it… You’re going to need it bru…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

“The name’s Bond, James Bo-… it isn’t? Ethan Hunt? No? Well, I must be Jason Bourne then right? I’m so forgetful – you know, with the whole amnesiac assassin thing I have going on… What? I’m… Aaron Cross?! Who?” Life as a government trained agent can be terribly hard on the old grey matter. With so many franchises and names bounding around, you’ve got to feel for a character like Aaron Cross; being up against some of the biggest, brightest and down-right bad ass(est) in the field. So with Cross picking up the mantle from Bourne in The Bourne Legacy can he deliver where it matters… even if he didn’t get his desired title of The Cross Conundrum?

Hunt, Bond, Bourne and Cross. Pick your hero.

The Bourne Legacy, in case your grey matter has also been taxed too hard, is the fourth installment in the “Bourne…” franchise of films. The original trilogy, starring Matt Damon, was loosely based on a set of books from the 1980s by Robert Ludlum. The Bourne Legacy takes its title from the fourth book, which isn’t written by Ludlum, and… has nothing else in common with the book. The film is set chronologically alongside the events of The Bourne Ultimatum and follows a new agent: Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who much like Bourne, enjoys successfully running away from the CIA. With this being a thriller, and my oath to the Nine Realms, that’s all I’ll reveal of the plot, but I’m sure you know the premise after three blockbuster movies!

Let me make one thing clear from the get go: I never worshipped at the altar of Bourne. Perhaps it all went wrong with me watching The Bourne Supremacy before any other of the movies. Sure, it was glitzy, the action was frenzied and Matt Damon was brutal, but it lacked soul for me. Does this hinder your enjoyment of this fourth installment? Well, yes and no. If you’re not familiar with certain key terms such as “Treadstone” and “Blackbriar”, or the premise behind the initial trilogy then the first 45 minutes will be very tough for you. The film doesn’t like to dwell on the past. I understand the need to “get on with the show”, but if The Avengers can summarise a whole five other movies and back-stories so seamlessly, then it’s not infeasible. Even though I knew what these terms meant, that opening act left me feeling cold and somewhat lost. It’s like I’d fallen asleep in the trailers and woken up midway into a film. It was jarring, and not at all helpful. Not a great start.

Hawkeye switches arrows for good old bullets.

That being said, there is much to enjoy in this movie once you’ve picked up the premise and Jeremy Renner has had a shave (you’ll see what I mean). What ensues is an international game of cat and mouse filled with great action sequences and a constant degree of suspense. Maybe not as much as one would hope for, but enough to sate the appetite. In typical thriller fashion, these events clearly lead to a crescendo… a climactic end sequence… the money job. Whilst it was a thrilling ride, I can’t help but feel that writer and director Tony Gilroy had been watching a bit too much Terminator 2: Judgement Day, as it all came off a tad “invincible cyborg”. You could have switched Renner and “X” with Arnie and T-1000 and felt right at home, even down to “X”‘s origin story and lack of dialogue. Though this T-1000 is no-where near as menacing as Robert Patrick.

It was great to finally see Jeremy Renner again taking the lead in a movie, after recently being locked in serviceable supporting slots in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers. He’s deserved a chance to again take the leading role, and I’m glad it’s come. Alongside Hawkeye Renner in the top-billed cast is Rachael Weisz and the old Hulk Ed Norton as friend and foe respectively. Everyone’s acting is up to scratch, but no-one really excels. There’s no “wow” moment in terms of dialogue or manner of delivery. The film is carried along primarily by the action and the plot. After all, this is a Bourne… movie, so maybe witty monologues aren’t to be expected. That being said, there’s also no excuse for muddying the action scenes with such rabid editing, which made it difficult to discern what was going on on-screen. Just don’t expect such exquisitely shot fight scenes as in The Raid: Redemption and you’ll be fine.

Hawkeye, for the love of God, don’t tell him you thought Mark Ruffalo was a better Bruce Banner… You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

One has to wonder whether this will be the last slice of Bourne we’ll be having at our cinemas. Sure, there are six more books, but as I mentioned – this film had nothing to do with the book, spare the title. And unless Universal can convince Paul Greengrass to return as director, we won’t be seeing Matt Damon return as Jason Bourne either. So the future is somewhat open-ended for this universe. A universe I, as a non-avid fan, would be keen to return to.

Overall, The Bourne Legacy is a lot like Usain Bolt after stepping off a theme park ride and into a sprint: unstable on its feet for a while, but eventually gathers itself and tears along at pace. It’s a solid entry in the franchise, but is really hampered by that slow and meandering opening. Although I wouldn’t expect Gilroy to take the novice viewer by the hand for the initial 15 minutes, explaining previous plot points, I would expect more exposition to improve on that opening.

The beginning of Aaron Cross’ story is intriguing, but isn’t yet enough to cement him along the A list of on-screen agents. But thankfully, he’s not with the reject pile of Johnny English and those damn Spy Kids either. But maybe I just prefer my agents to quaff shaken martinis, make sexual puns about “brushing up on a little Swede”… and lamentably parade around in Speedos, as he insists on doing in recent years.

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star