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Film review: Elysium

October 21, 2013


Mexican actor Diego Luna stars alongside Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in “Elysium,” an intriguing and action-packed sci-fi thriller out now in cinemas across Mexico.

Set mostly in Los Angeles in 2154, the movie tackles pressing issues such as immigration, healthcare and wealth inequality with the same sense of urgency and aplomb as in South African-Canadian director Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 debut, the excellent alien apartheid flick, “District 9.”

The premise of the film is that Earth has become so environmentally damaged that the wealthy elite have built a luxurious space station named Elysium, where they orbit the planet in perpetual perfect health thanks to the advanced technology available there. Meanwhile, those left on Earth, such as Max Da Costa (Damon) and his friend Julio (Luna), toil in oppressive conditions and dream in vain of one day making it to Elysium.

Most of the dialogue in “Elysium” is in English but there are a number of segments in Spanish, reflecting the heavy Mexican influence in Los Angeles, which has only grown by 2154. Several of the luxurious properties on the Elysium space station were filmed in Mexico City’s wealthy Huixquilucan-Interlomas suburbs, while much of the rundown Los Angeles seen in the film was actually shot in the poor Iztapalapa neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital.

Speaking to me about “Elysium” on the Huffington Post’s online TV channel in August, Luna said he believes that the disparity of wealth is definitely one of the biggest problems presently facing Mexico – and the entire world.

Huff Post Live studio

“We live in a country that gives so little chances to so many, but at the same time we have the richest man on the planet (Carlos Slim), so there is definitely a contradiction there,” Luna said.

“People ask me, ‘How long until we have Elysiums around the world?’ and I say, ‘We already have them.’ In Mexico City we have a place called Santa Fe where we build these amazing buildings, there’s so much money there and the view from every window is of poverty. Just in front of it there’s people living with nothing, one on top of the other, and that’s ridiculous.

“The whole idea behind the film is that one day those people are going to have to build a Santa Fe in the sky because otherwise someone is going to get to their apartments and want to sleep in the same bed. It makes no sense.”

Although it does not quite surpass its predecessor “District 9,” in terms of intelligence or excitement, “Elysium” is nonetheless a worthy, thrilling and thought-provoking follow-up, which will only heighten the Hollywood credentials of both Blomkamp and Luna.

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