It's the year 2154 and Earth has been destroyed. The rich have departed for a new life on Elysium, a super sphere where life is perfect and ill health a thing of the past. On the sun-scorched surface of the planet below, the unlucky toil in robot-ruled factories to produce goods and services for the nirvana-like space station floating above them. LA has been reduced to a shanty town: there are no utilities, no protection, no medical facilities, no hope.
Fighting for survival among this forsaken throng is Max (Matt Damon), a once petty criminal now grafting on the assembly line of an Armadyne Corp weapons factory. When an accidental radiation leak leaves him with just five days to live, he sets out to break into Elysium and use a life-saving medical bay to restore his health. Meanwhile, ruthless Elysian Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) has been dismissed from her post after firing at a shuttle of refugees.
Determined to hang on to her power, she asks oily Armadyne CEO John Carlyle (Fichtner) to help her override the Elysium central computer with a program that will make her president. He agrees, but before their plot can be hatched, the program downloads to a chip inserted into Max's brain and suddenly he has the power to unlock Elysium for all the sick and dying back on Earth. He'll just have to get past Delacourt, Carlyle and deadly mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley) first.
In 2009, South African director Neill Blomkamp stormed onto the Hollywood radar with thought-provoking sci-fi District 9. Four years on, Blomkamp repeated his knack for delivering a stonking blockbuster while also credibly exploring difficult issues of the day like access to healthcare, overpopulation and class.
Damon is the perfect action man for this bleached-out thriller and Foster nails ice queen as only she can, but the stand-out performance comes from Copley, whose turn as villainous hit man Kruger is so different from his breakout role in District 9, it's mesmerising.