The Last Duel (2021) 4K UHD

lastduel4kitaliaThankfully, The Last Duel marks a return to form for director Ridley Scott. I keep thinking, I should be referring to him as ‘SIR’ Ridley and I’m doing him a disservice at best or lack of respect at worst, and I certainly intend neither. After all, I’ve followed and been fascinated, enthralled and horrified  by his career ever since I read the lengthy interviews with him in Fantastic Films back when Alien came out in 1979. His Ridleygrams and keen eye for design was an inspiration for years while I was at High School and later doing my Degree in Art & Design.  I think its true to say now that there is much more to his films than the visuals, even if that was the inevitable cheap shot targeted at him early on, and a general consensus he always seems damned by. 

There was a time when the arrival of every new Ridley Scott film was something to get excited by. I think that waned pretty early on- of course, I loved Alien and Blade Runner and was frustrated by Legend, and I recall being mystified by Someone to Watch Over Me, as if it was Ridley selling out (something only intensified by Black Rain, and later G.I. Jane) when he’d gotten so many of us convinced he’d be the John Ford of sci-fi/fantasy films. Looking at his filmography today, its pretty mixed: some great films, some average films, some poor films, but its a pretty astonishing list of films, really, and that’s just considering him as director; he’s produced/executive produced a colossal amount of work in film and television.

But I remember the days I used to think he’d forever be making films that looked like Heavy Metal movies- a little like the days when I thought George Lucas would make nine Star Wars films in a relentless, wonderful three-yearly succession-and I have a wry smile considering my naivety back then. By the mid-eighties Ridley was off making ‘ordinary’ films and Lucas had abandoned Star Wars films completely.

The Last Duel is a little like the films I thought Ridley would always be making. Films depicting other worlds. I appreciate I’m falling into the trap, with this line of thinking,  of Ridley just being a visual stylist, but the guy has the best eye in the business, and as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten so incredibly fast. The Last Duel is a return to the very beginning, and the pastoral beauty of The Duellists, his low-budget first feature that was hardly released and watched by pretty much nobody (hey, its like he’s gone totally full circle). It also reminds one of 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Kingdom of Heaven (the directors cut of which I consider to be one of his top five, maybe even top three, films), films which put worlds on screen as vividly alien as anything set on some other world or in some distant future.

Its interesting to consider The Duellists, though, because The Last Duel is in no way as pretty or visually intoxicating as that first film. The Duellists seemed to have something to prove (if only that Ridley could outdo Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon?), and is so painterly and beautiful. The Last Duel is very impressive visually, with its period setting evoked in just as tangible a reality, but it doesn’t draw attention to its visuals as much as Ridley’s earlier work. The Last Duel is more balanced, and intent on its character and narrative and acting performances: a more qualified and professional piece of work, perhaps. I just think its quite telling, comparing Ridley’s first film and this 2021 film. 

So The Last Duel starts by telling us it is based on true events. Its essentially a Medieval rape-revenge drama, which is a summation that does it no favours at all, and its method of telling its narrative from three seperate viewpoints weighs the film down with a big Rashomon reference nailed to its back like an easy target. The Last Duel is no Rashomon– for one thing the three versions of the story are largely very similar, the differences pointedly the subjective view of each narrator, complicated by how much faith we have in who is being true and doubts regards what ‘truth’ even means in such a misogynistic world. Even the word ‘rape’ essentially has different meaning in 1386, less a crime against the female victim and more an affront to the man who ‘owns’ her. This is a horrifying world in which only men hold power and authority, and the woman Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer) is caught in the middle of some long feud between past freinds Jean (Matt Damon), and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) which ends in typical bloody masculinity; a fight to the death which will decide the truth of her allegations and possibly result in her being flogged and burned alive. Hell yeah – this is the kind of film to outrage feminists everywhere and turn men into apologists for their gender (and as usual for Ridley, religion and its power machinations don’t come out too positively either).

What made The Last Duel so interesting and rewarding, for me, was the typical Ridley habit of featuring largely unlikeable characters. Even considering its general plotline, this is not the narrative one might expect in an audience-friendly Hollywood flick, characters don’t tick the boxes we’d usually expect. Jean, the wronged husband nominally defending his wife’s reputation is a brute, something of a monster. He’s a violent man more disposed to the battle field, largely unread and uncultured, and always on the brink of poverty. Its telling that he marries Marguerite not out of love but more out of the need of her dowry, paid to him by her father, in order to keep Jean solvent – part of his grievance with Jacques Le Gris is because Le Gris is gifted land which Jean thought he was entitled to as part of Marguerite’s dowry. Le Gris meanwhile is less the warrior and more the gifted socialite, working his way up through society through his manners and cultured upbringing rather than prowess serving the King on battlefields. This might suggest that he is a ‘nicer’, more likeable character but far from it- he’s actually quite repellent as regards his treatment of women (albeit one must remember its typical of that period). Its  interesting how the film portrays the actual rape- first from Le Gris’ point of view, which sees Marguerite’s protestations as token actions of ‘a lady’ who is actually quite willing, and then how we see it from Marguerite’s own view. Even something as subtle as Marguerite slipping off her footwear before backing upstairs towards her bedroom – enticingly provocative in Le Gris’ account, whereas they simply fall off in her rising panic  as she flees for safety upstairs in Marguerite’s telling.

In truth, I don’t think anyone comes across well in the film other than Marguerite- this is a film in which all men are largely bastards and dismissive of women other than as objects of lust or vessels for children. Perhaps the film lacks the sophistication to suggest that the men are not inherently evil, rather more products of their society and world, or perhaps that’s expected as a given. Its possibly one of the weaknesses of the film, that we don’t really ‘like’ either of the two men caught in combat during the final duel, but that’s possibly a case of reality getting in the way of empathy with the narrative. In an ‘ordinary’ or traditional film, we’d have a hero to root for, one of the men on the side of ‘right’. Instead we’re more concerned in the twists of the fight to the death as regards what it means for poor Marguerite who will be summarily tortured and executed if her husband falls. I have to admit, I felt quite tense during the last duel, having absolutely no idea who was going to be victorious or what the ultimate outcome for Marguerite might be, so some kudos for the film there. Its nice when watching a modern film not being able to second-guess or predict it. Neither man is really fighting for Marguerite- Jean has old scores to settle and the personal sense of affront regards his sullied wife, while Le Gris has likely already moved on to some other female conquest. 

Ironically however, for all the failings of the characters themselves, the actors come across very well indeed, and barring a few dodgy accents and a turn from Ben Affleck as the rich Count Pierre d’Alençon, cousin to the mad King and court ally of Le Gris, which I’ve still got mixed feelings about., the cast is excellent. Comer is just brilliant, probably the best performance in the film and one of the best I’ve seen all year. Damon and Driver are both very good, giving nuanced performances of complex and flawed characters, engaging and repellent in equal measure, something not at all easy. I think one of the improvements in Ridley’s films over the years has been his work with actors and one can see that here.

So this may not be top-tier Ridley, whatever that actually means as there are so many differing opinions regards which are his best films (hell, I actually like The Counsellor)  but its certainly a solid film and one of his better ones – most definitely a return to form. Time, of course, will provide the true yardstick, rather than the frankly appalling box-office which has left this film cited as the bomb of the year. I’d like to think the film will find its audience over time, and apparently this already may well be the case with home streaming figures reportedly being high- its just perhaps not the film to drag punters into cinemas, particularly during a pandemic. So wrong film, wrong time… that’s hardly a first for Ridders.

Le Mans ’66 – 4K UHD

lemans66Our UK title for the film known more prosaically as Ford v Ferrari in many territories (something that sounds foreign no doubt proving a hard sell to American audiences), this film was great- brilliant even. A breath of fresh air, really; a rather old-fashioned kind of film- you know, great cast playing memorable characters, a tight script that alternates between drama and warmth and humour effortlessly, a story with a beginning, a middle and end, and all told with all the embellishments modern film-making can afford, such as fantastic sound design and flawless visual effects. The nostalgia of the film was as much from its Old School sensibilities as much as its richly recreated period setting. In all honesty, I was absolutely buzzing after watching this, that kind of high when you know you’ve watched a film that just works, just clicks in all the right places, a film I can imagine myself watching years from now.

Indeed, maybe it was the chemistry between Matt Damon and Christian Bale, and the male bonding of the characters they so memorably played, but I find myself comparing this film to The Shawshank Redemption. Its that good. Sure, it doesn’t break any rule-books or offer anything particularly new, but what it does do is look simple when its nothing of the sort, and moreover it knows what it is, and delivers. Like The Shawshank Redemption, its a film with a great story and great characters within it.

It can’t be any accident, for instance, that the film is currently scoring a critics score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an audience score of 98% – with those kids of numbers, you’d be forgiven for thinking this film had been an Oscar contender and a huge box-office success. Regards the latter, it was regrettably not so, grossing just $225 million worldwide on a $97 million budget, so likely not even breaking even. Another similarity to The Shawshank Redemption, then, and I suspect the film will gain more success at home from word of mouth in just the same way as Shawshank did At the Oscars it deservedly won two technical awards, but not any of the biggies. Shame that; I’m not going to suggest the film possibly really does enough to garner a Best Picture award, but then again, that award went to Parasite, a film which I’ve not seen yet but and okay, possibly a more deserving film from what I’ve heard, but…  a dark horse like the Old School Le Mans ’66/Ford v Ferrari would still have been great, sending a message to Hollywood that the Box-Office didn’t: more of these please.

But of course, in truth that Box-Office probably did send a message to Hollywood, just not the one I’d prefer- I really don’t know if the studios look much beyond those figures towards audience reception. Certainly the film seemed to have pretty much pleased most who’d seen it- the problem was just getting them in to see it. I won’t pretend that the film is perfect but I’ll easily forgive any of its slip-ups just for being what it is: a great, old-fashioned movie that deserved better at the cinemas. Oh well, there’s a long line of discs on my shelf that share that same description, and I’ll always return to them more often than many of the box-office blockbusters so quickly forgotten.

I’ll reserve final judgement until I’ve seen it a few times/digested it awhile, but really, this could be one of my favourite movies someday, sitting alongside Shawshank on the shelf.

The Efficient Martian

THE MARTIANThere is something almost brutally efficient regards Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Its a mean, lean machine- I think Scott says in his commentary that the film was shot in just 74 days, which is formidable indeed for a film of its scale, of its visual complexity. I would not suggest its a great film- like Interstellar, its a film I can enjoy and quite admire but its far from a personal favourite or a film I love. Which is, considering its subject, like that of Interstellar, rather strange- you’d think this kind of film would be right up my street. Maybe its the lack of tension, which may have something to do with the film’s particularly laid-back, relaxed score. I’d read the book beforehand so I knew how the film would play out the first time I ever saw it, but I don’t think anyone unfamiliar with that book has any doubt how it will turn out. At any rate, I do think that had this film got a moody, tense Jerry Goldsmith score, it would be a different experience entirely.

So anyway, The Martian certainly looks gorgeous (I watched it this time in 4K UHD, and in its slightly extended cut), with brilliant art direction, it has a fine cast, and a great story and screenplay, and no matter my misgivings is clearly superior to Apollo 13, the film it obviously is most similar to. Its just misfiring a little, and I’m beginning to think its because of its brutal efficiency- there’s little chaos to it, its all… not mundane exactly, but it just feels so calculated. Every shot, every line, its all like a machine with a particular purpose, to tell its story.  Its possibly a film via a committee, rather than a passionate and involving film from a single visionary director. Its quite true that there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but somethings missing, and whenever I watch this film,  I’m never sure quite what.

Interstellar Strikes Back

inter1In the spirit of all things Ad Astra, I’ve elected to embark on a rewatch of similar sci-fi films (maybe it would be more pertinent that I should get around to that 4K edition Apocalypse Now first, but I’m sure its time will come, having just given that sets Hearts of Darkness doc a rewatch yesterday). First on the list was Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, which gave the me the opportunity to watch it on a 4K UHD disc that I bought last year and never watched.

Well, as far as 4K goes, I couldn’t really tell much difference in the picture quality, other than some nice careful use of HDR (the Black Hole effects at the end really benefit)- what I did find improved was the sound, with a nausea-inducing low level on the bass that threatened the walls of my house. I don’t know if its the same track as the Blu-ray but goodness its a loud and energetic track.

This time around the film held a few surprises- I  discovered  that Timothée Chalamet, who is playing Paul in Denis Villenveuve’s Dune project, featured in Interstellar, playing the young Tom (son of Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper). I really hadn’t realised I’d already seen him in something- turns out Hollywood really is a small world. Speaking of which, David Gyasi, who played scientist Romily on the mission through the Wormhole, was featured in Carnival Row that I watched a few days back- he played Agreus, a Puck and therefore a performance under considerable make-up (one of the most noteworthy roles in the series, I thought). Of course the film also stars Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon, who will both turn up in the next film on my list; The Martian.  So yes, small world indeed. I won’t mention that McConaughey also featured in that ‘movie’ I saw the other night because, well, we’re all pretending I didn’t see it.

While I did enjoy rewatching Interstellar, it remains a difficult film to really connect with- something I find true of many of Christopher Nolan’s films. They always seem detached, films of soulless characters in admittedly astonishing situations. Something like Interstellar, I should probably love, but I don’t, and I think that as its true of all his films, that’s down to Nolan’s style.

inter2What Interstellar undoubtedly is, is a fantastic audio-visual experience. Its use of music is pretty extraordinary, abetted by a brilliant Hans Zimmer score which dominates the film more than anything else in the picture. I think its Zimmer’s second-best score of his career (Thin Red Line having the number one spot, naturally), and it works so well in the film it never fails to ‘wow’ me. Of course much of its success is in the editing of the film, as it really seems to be edited to the score, rather than the other way around, and it really is a huge part of the film’s success.

The usual things still bugged me however. Nobody builds rocket engines alongside a conference room. I can never see those doors/wall slide open to reveal the silo next to them (that conference room must have extraordinary soundproofing) without a groan and I’ll never understand that thing of the NASA complex actually being clandestinely built to be spaceship. For a film that purports to be a serious science fiction film with real science etc, I’ve never been at ease with some of its ‘leaps of faith’ that would rankle Kubrick and Clarke no end.

That being said, I think I’ve made my piece with Gargantua and the bookcase. Its clear to me now that the wormhole wasn’t put next to Saturn, and set for Gargantua, in order for humanity to find a world to live there. Those worlds in orbit/proximity to the Black Hole were never candidates for human colonisation. That was an assumption by the NASA boffins and quite wrong- I’m sure humanity actually uses Murph’s gravity equation to travel to different worlds entirely. No, the wormhole was set for Gargantua simply because Cooper had to fall into the Black Hole and transmit the gravity equation data to Murph so that she could realise the technology to save humanity. It was all orchestrated by the ‘Future Humans’ in a kind of cosmic time paradox. It always bugged me that the last place to settle a human colony would be anywhere near a Black Hole, and rewatching it again I kind of realised that was never the case, whatever the NASA boys thought – in a nice Time Paradox kind of way, Matt Damon’s Space Madness-infected (hey, say hello Ad Astra!) Mann had to behave the way he did in order for Cooper to ‘sacrifice’ himself. So finding habitable worlds near that Black Hole was a fool’s errand rather than the film being stupid.

And I still think a whole film set on that dying Earth would be a splendid thing. Some of the best stuff in the whole film is in that sequence, including things like history being rewritten to show the Apollo landings were a hoax. I love that stuff, and there’s a whole great film in there- I’d love to know whats happening in the rest of the world.


Jason Bourne (2016)

jason12016.99: Jason Bourne

I’m rather a fan of the Bourne films- certainly the first three, and the fourth (and first non-Matt Damon outing) The Bourne Legacy had its moments, but it’s now clear that the problems with that flawed fourth entry in the franchise were not unique to itself. This latest film, simply titled Jason Bourne, sees the welcome return of both Matt Damon in the title role and also celebrated director Paul Greengrass, but alas it carries many of the problems of that fourth film which at the time were perhaps shrugged aside as simply being the by-product of not having Damon or Greengrass involved.

Sadly, this film has none of the energy and freshness of the first three films, with few surprises (and some of those unwelcome). Instead its a tired and surprisingly unimaginative retread of so much that has gone before, to the degree that it almost feels like a reboot rather than a continuation of the saga. Perhaps thats simply another indication of safety-concious Hollywood and its unwillingness sometimes to really stretch a franchise away from the familiar – a criticism that could well be laid at the feet of the rival series of James Bond films.

Perhaps its due to the length of time between the previous Greenhouse-helmed and Damon-starring entry, but  there’s certainly an element of doubt and lack of conviction about this effort. Dare I say it almost feels like a cash-grab? To fans such as myself, that’s the worst thing of all regards this film- in anycase, its woefully overfamiliar: Jason Bourne is living a life ‘under the radar’ until he is again brought under the gaze of the CIA and factions within it that need Bourne silenced/terminated, an ensuing chase around the world with Bourne at odds with elaborate high-tech surveillance tech in his search for a hidden truth about his past (in this case, the particularly awkward introduction of his dead father and Bourne’s search for justice/revenge).  It almost feels like a ‘Greatest Hits’ package of elements from each of first three films: Bourne resurfaces, he’s abetted by ‘honest’ CIA staff, he has to avenge the death of his wife (father here), the head of the CIA is corrupt, the odds are against him but Bourne stays one step ahead, the tech fails in the face of the human element, Bourne goes back under the radar. I’m sure I’m not spoiling anything- you really have seen it all before.

Worse, the execution itself feels rather uninspired, with action scenes and stunts all sadly inferior to those of the first three films. Its a frankly disappointing effort and while some fans will enjoy the familiarity of the returning characters and themes, I’m sure that most, like me, will feel rather let-down by the distinct lack of originality. The Bourne films have been a welcome alternative (and some would argue a needed kick in the teeth) to the Bond films, and it’s odd to see the Bourne films in something of a creative crisis at the same time as the Bond films seem to be suffering from one.Maybe its a general issue with the spy-thriller genre in the wake of the spectacles of the superhero films that dominate the screen these days. Or maybe the recent Mission: Impossible films are having an impact on Bourne as clearly as they are the Bond films. I do hope the Bourne films can continue, particularly with Damon as he’s clearly a great action hero in these, but perhaps with the next film a fresh approach can revitalise it. It certainly needs something.



The Monuments Men (2014)

Still from Monuments Men2016.24: The Monuments Men (HD Streaming)

In this post-Saving Private Ryan film landscape, it is actually rather odd that The Monuments Men is so surprisingly lightweight. Evidently this is deliberate, but it leaves it feeling like two different movies. On the one hand, it is visually stunning, using quite extraordinary effects work to place the protagonists in the middle of post-D Day wartime Europe. It looks like an epic war movie, and so much another Saving Private Ryan/Band of Brothers, a gritty war movie like, say, the same year’s Fury, and yet the twist is that it’s actually nothing of the sort. Director Clooney is trying to weave a more intimate, family friendly, life-affirming tale about the true story of Frank Stokes (Clooney) who gathers a group of art experts and scholars on a mission to save Europe’s greatest works of art from being destroyed in the chaos of the Allied invasion and German retreat.

The cast is pretty impressive – no, strike that; Clooney has assembled a frankly fantastic cast that includes Matt Damon, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett and Hugh Bonneville. Clooney is no doubt hoping that casting such heavyweights will allow their screen personas to inform the scantily-sketched characters spread thinly across the films short but busy running time. It doesn’t really work- seeing such great actors with lightweight roles seems a bit of a waste, but I guess it engenders rapid audience empathy. Its just a pity the characters aren’t more rounded or convincing.

It does seem that the film spreads itself too thin trying to tell too much of a story, that it needed editing down. In its defence, it’s clear that the film is trying to be faithful and respectful to the true story and mindful of not shortchanging anyone. It’s a similar situation to Everest. Sometimes you try to be fair to everyone and it turns out detrimental to the film as a whole and ultimately fails the original objective.

Which is not to suggest that The Monuments Men is a bad film. It’s a noble one, certainly, and tells an interesting and entertaining story, but as its characters split up and travel all over war-torn Europe hunting down the artworks stolen by the Reich, the film spreads itself too thin. The individual storylines become vignettes and I guess they are intended to inform the whole, but instead I felt that the scattered approach instead weakens it. We don’t really feel everything we are intended to feel. The film may have been better served by focusing wholly on one pair of ‘heroes’ but I suppose the counter-argument would be that wouldn’t be the ‘whole’ story. Clooney walks a tightrope here and falters- to further the analogy, while he doesn’t really fall off he loses his balance a few times, the film losing the grace it should have.

Yet some sequences are mightily impressive. There’s a particularly poignant Christmas scene, when a recorded Christmas message from back home involving  a warm Christmas song is played over a snow-swept Allied camp’s tannoy against visuals of wounded soldiers in a medical tent and one young man dying. It’s intimate and effective, a reminder of the contrast of the setting and the time of year and what our heroes are fighting for, and what they have at stake. It’s a well-written and directed scene, possibly the best of the film.

Elsewhere Clooney displays some skill at managing the great scale of things. He seems quite accomplished at knitting in the big effects shots and has a keen eye for composition. Its some feat to star in a film at the same time as directing it but he manages it well; its just a shame that the script, spread so thin telling so much, can’t afford more scenes as effective as the Christmas sequence, or characters a little more rounded and driven.

But what the hell, it’s a film with Bob Balaban in it (and he’s great, by the way). In my book, that makes it a film more than worth seeing, period.

Elysium (2013)

elysiumWatching Elysium I had the feeling I was watching a film where a dodgy script or shooting problems were being fixed during the editing process with questionable success. By which I mean the whole thing didn’t really work. The pace seems wrong, the editing awry, the intentions rather confused. There’s something wrong here- too many (frankly irritating) shots in  ‘slow motion’ in a vain attempt to add emotional resonance; a love story that doesn’t convince, protagonists that are one dimensional and under-developed without explained motivations.  Plot-points that race by without explanation. God knows the whole thing looks utterly gorgeous, a huge budget, A-list cast, with seamless effects and slick design involving none other than Syd Mead. This should be a classic, but instead its rather a dud, possibly my biggest disappointment of 2013.

I expected rather more of Neill Blomkamp, particularly in mind of his excellent District 9, one of the most notable sci-fi films of the past decade.

At its heart, Elysium is the story of the chasm between rich and poor, a story that dates back  in sci-fi films as far back as the great Metropolis, a film that did the job much better as it turns out. Elysium is a utopia, a space station in orbit that can be seen by the impoverished millions on Earth. On Elysium the rich and the beautiful live long (possibly endless?) lives free of hunger, pain and sickness, with each household having a miracle medical machine that cures all ills and injuries. It looks very clean, very idyllic. But beyond all that, we know nothing of Elysium. We know nothing of the citizens life of privilege, what they do all day, what political system operates.  We don’t spend any time with the folks of Elysium to understand how they live, how they feel about the poor left behind on Earth.  We don’t really even know if they depend on the labour of those left behind on Earth to maintain their utopian lives; its  a plot point never developed, like so many others, another thread that when pulled starts to unravel the entire enterprise.

Our allegiance is obviously with the poor masses left behind on Earth. Here they have no miracle health machines, jobs appear scarce and unrewarding, poverty and crime are everywhere. Terrorist freedom fighters hijack transports to illegally emigrate to Elysium, but how they finance or organise/act out such efforts is never explained (getting a shuttle into orbit and onto the station is hardly as simple as crossing a border or smuggling aboard a freight lorry, but its depicted as if its easy enough to be a constant thorn of  Elysium’s security force).

A (sincere enough) Matt Damon stars as Max, who in rather pointless flashbacks spent much of his childhood staring up at Elysium in the sky wishing he could go there. Adult Max is still on Earth, with a criminal record to his name and stuck in a manufacturing job in a factory building law enforcement robots (shades of the recent Total Recall remake there). Max meets childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga) for the first time in years; she’s a doctor now, working in a hospital. Unknown to Max, Frey has a daughter who is terminally ill.  An accident at work results in Max being irradiated with only days to live.  His only hope is to reach Elysium, and he falls into his old criminal crowd, working for terrorists who recruit him in a raid on a high-ranking Elysium citizen who runs Max’s factory, John Carlyle. Carlyle has intel that Max and his cohorts can use to gain entry to the orbital station.

elysium-elysium-on-the-curveThe complication is that Elysium’s Defense Secretary Jessica Delacourt (a criminally-underused Jodie Foster) has a scheme in place with Carlyle to instigate a coup in Elysium, placing Delacourt as president. Delacourt’s reasons for this act are vague, other than frustrations with the current leaders of the station, who she sees as weak and ineffectual against the tide of immigrants harassing her orbital paradise.  In anycase, the data that Max manages to steal from Carlyle is the very data she needs to rewrite the stations operating system and put herself in charge. Being able to rewrite the stations operating system, this data in the wrong (terrorist) hands could also undo the utopia completely and bring the miracle health machines to the poor masses on Earth.

Cue several high-octane actions sequences that, while impressively staged are also rather boring. The problem being we don’t really care.  My summary of the plot makes it seem an interesting film but there’s something wrong. Rather than be a genuine bad guy/criminal that eventually turns good in order to save the masses, Max is instead just a misfortunate who always had a heart of gold, there is little character arc here for him. Likewise Delacourt is a one-dimensional villain; we don’t really understand her motivations beyond a superficial level. How interesting this film might have been had Max been a criminal always out for himself in the cut-throat world he lives in, who finally learns to change in order to save those around him. He doesn’t change, he’s always just been a good boy at heart. Likewise if we had understood who Delacourt was, her allegiances to the system, her loved ones she strives to protect by maintaining their lives of privilege, we might have sympathised with her a little. Instead a complex premise is made simple black & white and weakened. When Delacourt finally meets her end, it happens almost in passing, incidental, as if it means nothing. It does the casting of someone like Foster in the role a real disservice. Indeed, all the parts here seem thankless, from Max to Frey to Elysium sleeper agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley, so wonderful in District 9), as one-dimensional a villain as you ever likely to meet in a movie. I expected Kruger (betrayed and sacked at one point by his masters) to switch allegiances and assist Max in his quest but no, he’s just a dumb soldier for hire with an aptitude for guns. Another wasted character arc. Which sums up the film really. Its pretty but vacuous. I had hoped for more.