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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Elysium

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jose Pablo Cantillo and Matt Damon star in a scene from the movie "Elysium."
Back in 2009, South Africa-born writer-director Neill Blomkamp made quite a stir in Hollywood with his low-budget, high-box office science fiction film "District 9."

Penned in collaboration with Terri Tatchell, the movie used its human characters' interaction with an invading race of unpleasant-looking, insectlike extraterrestrials as a prism through which to examine topics like racism, colonialism, apartheid and xenophobia.

Similarly serious aims underlie Blomkamp's latest project (this one scripted solo), the dystopian action picture "Elysium" (TriStar). In crafting what might be termed a thinking person's shoot-'em-up, Blomkamp envisions a future society with numerous -- and uncomfortable -- analogous ties to our own.

Though obviously well-intentioned --viewers of faith will sympathize with the narrative's point of view on a range of subjects -- the resulting parable is also laden with harsh vocabulary and visuals. As such, it's suitable only for stalwart grown-ups.

Considered aesthetically, moreover, caricature and oversimplification weaken the impact of the film's implicit messages concerning such contemporary ills as the plight of immigrants, restricted access to health care and the unequal division of resources.

Familiar social and environmental blights have run rampant in the mid-22nd-century world of "Elysium." So much so that the Los Angeles in which its protagonist, an industrial laborer named Max (Matt Damon), ekes out his existence is one vast ruined slum peopled by demoralized and oppressed drones.

Since similar conditions prevail across the despoiled globe, the rich have retreated to the idyllic satellite from which the movie takes its title. There they live a life of ease -- and enjoy miraculous medical technology not shared with their underlings on the home planet.

After a workplace accident exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, Max is desperate to reach this orbiting world of privilege where he knows he can be healed.

In exchange for passage there, he agrees to undertake a perilous spying mission for underground guerilla leader Spider (Wagner Moura). A master of high-tech innovation and a dabbler in all sorts of illegal activities, Spider has the necessary resources to smuggle Max aloft.

Since the secrets Max is out to steal have the potential to undermine the whole system protecting Elysium's way of life, his assignment brings him into conflict with one of the habitat's top leaders, ruthless Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster).

Up to her neck in high-stakes political intrigue, Delacourt also has personal reasons for wanting to stop Max. And she has just the man for the job: a brutal mercenary called Kruger (Sharlto Copley). As Delacourt's long-standing secret agent on Earth, Kruger specializes in keeping the downtrodden in line -- by any means necessary.

Flashbacks to childhood reveal that the orphaned Max was befriended and nurtured by a deeply sympathetic nun (Yolanda Abbud L.) -- a figure whose portrayal Catholic moviegoers in particular will appreciate.

She serves as Max's steady moral compass, though she's not a guide on whom he always relies. But the lack of balance or shading among other representative characters means that "Elysium" succeeds more as a suspenseful adventure than as anything of deeper significance.

The film contains much gory violence, some gruesome images, a few uses of profanity, considerable rough and crude language and several obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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