The film portrays a future where the rich and powerful of Earth have left to live in a massive space station, Elysium. Locked in their own little world, those lucky enough to live in space not only have few worries, but also amazing medical capabilities that allow them to be healthy and apparently young looking at all times. Of course, this is in stark contrast to the poor people who still live on the planet-wide slums and dilapidated cities. Those still on Earth have hard lives that leave even the most good-hearted people straddling the lines of the law.
One such person is Max (Matt Damon), a man who is trying to keep to the straight and narrow after developing a bit of a reputation as a carjacker. Now, he has a regular job at one of the droid manufacturing facilities and is regularly turning down jobs that would blow a fuse on his robotic parole officer. Max scrimps and saves every dime he can because he has one desire, to make it to Elysium and get off of the planet.
It's not entirely impossible - there are ways to get onboard and get an identity. One such way is through an old companion of Max's, Spider (Wagner Moura). Spider regularly fills ships and sends them into space; unfortunately, those ships don't always make it and even the ones that do touch down seem to have a hard time not getting caught by the robotic officials and deported back to the planet.
When Max gets a heavy dose of radiation from work, he knows that the only way he will survive past the five-day window his medical droid has given him is to get to Elysium and use one of the medical stations to clean his body.
Desperate and sick, Max goes to Spider and ends up taking on a dangerous mission. If Max can pull it off, he has a ticket on Spider's next ship into space. Max is tasked with getting a brain dump of an Elysium citizen, John Carlyle (William Fichtner), in order to gain access to all of the rich man's bank accounts. In order to help in the mission, Spider outfits Max with an exoskeleton and the ability to download other people's memories. A pair of pretty painful surgeries later, Max and his team are in the field. Of course, things go sideways for Max. When word gets to Elysium that one of their citizens is in trouble, Delacourt (Jodie Foster), the head of the station's security, sends in a mercenary, Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to stop the attack.
Without revealing too much of the deeper part of Elysium's plot, suffice it to say, Max ends up finding more reasons to go into space, the least of which is Max's old crush, Frey (Alice Braga) and her sick daughter, Matilda (Emma Tremblay).
Elysium does a great job of keeping a unified feel across two very different environments. While the Earth settings feel a lot like Director Neill Blomkamp's previous film, District 9, the crisp, clean and sterile space station is about as far from the gritty, alien-infested world from that movie as you can get. The result is that you can really feel the difference in the two groups of people's living conditions, even though you see a lot more of Max's world than you do of Delacourt's. Of course, the movie's cast goes a long way in selling the feel of the film as well. Damon pulls off both the action and dramatic sequences, while Foster plays the film's antagonist with both grace and a cold heart. It is also nice to see Copley play a very different role from his part in District 9.
The Blu-ray version of Elysium is not only a stunning sight in high definition, but it has a ton of special features that will keep anyone interested entertained for a long time. The release comes with six different featurettes along with an extended scene and a whole slew of concept art pieces depicting both Earth and Elysium. The featurettes range from the initial creation of the script and film, to the choice in actors, to the concept design of Elysium, to the building of the sets, weapons, droids and exoskeletons used in the film.
While Elysium has some popcorn flick moments to it, there is also a pretty obvious message concerning what happens when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The story itself didn't have to be a futuristic sci-fi action adventure film, but by putting it in that setting, it makes for an interesting backdrop and just a little bit more than Matt Damon running around with a suit that makes him super powerful. I feel Elysium is worth seeing, but its message might be a bit too prominent for you to want to watch it over and over again.