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Film analysis written by Victor "Vic Kings" Reis

The American Dream is one of Capitalism's highest profitable products. On sale since the end of World War II, and improved by years of entertainment lecturing through Cinema and TV series, this idea of living in a meritocracy is sold and bought by thousands of want-to-be immigrants, that find in illegality a way to flee from poverty, misery, social insecurity and the lack of opportunity in education and business. USA's south border neighbor, Mexico, is historically the homeland of the great majority of these illegal immigrants that try to cross the border by paying the popularly known coyotes to smuggle them inside the North American territory. Even though most of these immigrants end up getting the largest amount of unwanted jobs by American citizens, the increase in the immigrant population became a huge problem for the federal and Red States governments, especially under Trump's mandate.

The Cheetos-looking former Republican President became the spokesman of a whole population parcel by coming up with the "brilliant" idea of creating a wall between the US-Mexican border, as well as arresting and ultimately deporting the illegal people who were "stealing" works in US territory from middle-class American patriots. With "The Wall" barrier getting more diffused, the political heat got even higher, and the hunt for ilegales increased in the Tex-Mex region, inflamed by MAGA's orange leader tweets and speeches, leading to the point of arresting immigrant children in cages, ready for deportation. A scene that is so barbaric that makes Neil Bloomkamp's second feature film feel more like a contemporary documentary of a not-so-far future than a sci-fi movie, even though the story takes place in a space station. Oddly or not, the film was produced and released about 4 years before Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th US president.

Even under Obama's administration, the prophetic-yet-reflective narrative written and directed by the South African filmmaker, made a clear statement that the hatred against immigrants was going to be taken to a next level, so it did. What makes it different, though; it's that on the other hand, non-government-related citizens of Elysium apparently aren't aware of the illegal spacecraft crisis happening in their orbiting space station dreamland. At the same time, the francophone Elysium's Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt is well aware of the non-stop arrival of Earth's coyotes on the 1%'s Garden of Eden, making her a cross between Margaret Thatcher, Dick Cheney, and the US The Apprentice's former host and producer from 2004 to 2015.

Down in the real world, however, the situation is wasteland-esque. Los Angeles, the only coupure of 2154's Earth the audience gets to see, became a dirty and destroyed ghetto. The bureaucratic civil servants are substituted by easily-offended human-shaped robots with mechanic voices. The human police enforcements are substituted by programmed emotionless androids, who don't hesitate to assault, arrest or kill lesser citizens, a.k.a., proletarian earthlings condemned to misery. And among these forgotten human beings, we have the protagonist, Max da Costa, a working-class dreamer orphan who grew up in a Hispanic household alongside other left-behind kids, destined to become exploited workers, or living targets, when reaching adulthood.

It's interesting to notice that this very character is played by the only white "good guy" in the film, New England's son Matt Damon. I could discuss the choice of an American renowned Caucasian actor as the protagonist, making a hypothesis that this specific casting decision was made exclusively by Hollywood's studio corporates, to sell better this action flick to US and worldwide regular Cinema audiences, or even more deeply as a way to show a "true American" as the ultimate savior for immigrants, so the whole non-white foreigner newcomer deal could be softened for the eyes of quarrelsome and prickly so-called patriots. Especially given the fact that Max's counterpart working-class rebels are: Latin Americans, from Brazilians Wagner Moura and Alice Braga, to Mexican Diego Luna; or non-white North Americans, like Jose Pablo Cantillo (American son of Costa Rican parents), and Adrian Holmes (Canadian son of Bajan parents). But as I said previously, even though hinted, this discussion won't be the focus of this present analysis. At least not so deeply.

Beaten, abused, and marginalized, Max has always seen getting to Elysium as his main goal in life. But after being exposed to an absurd amount of nuclear rays in his enslaving work shift, that boyhood dreamy desire became a matter of life-or-death. And under the guidance of Wagner Moura's Spider, the protagonist becomes the vessel for a social revolution. After the kidnapping, and ultimately killing of an Elysium magnate, associated with Jodie Foster's Delacourt, Max secures in his brain a power to redistribute the wealth and health care for exploited people, left for the miserable conditions of Earth.

We must notice that Elysium is not only a Garden of Eden because it lacks pollution, inequality among its citizens, or even total access to natural and nutritious food, but mainly because they have access to America's biggest dream, and the biggest nightmare for neo-liberal blue and conservative red politicians: universal health care. Every Elysium citizen has access to Med-Bays, machines projected to medicine most marvel-like wonders, from cellular arrangement to cure Cancer to body-parts perfect recreations. Those rich enough to guarantee a living in the orbiting station are blessed with eternal and accessible health. And this, dear reader, it's the gold mine and the main reason why migrating to Elysium, even if just for a split-second long enough to use one of these miracle-operating machines, worth every hard-earned penny, and even life itself.

Access to public and quality health care is the reason why Delacourt is ready to perform a coup in Elysium to constitutionally make sure illegal immigration becomes a felony punishable by the death penalty. And also the reason why Delacourt's number one manhunter, South African black ops Agent M. Kruger (fiercely played by Bloomkamp's dynamic duo Sharlto Copley) starts a riot by the film's 3rd act. This fact turns da Costa into Elysium's number one most wanted terrorist. After the death of his best friend Julio (Diego Luna), and unintentionally dragging his childhood sweetheart Frey (Alice Braga) and her daughter into this political plot, Max decides to follow Spider's revolutionary plan: make everyone a citizen of Elysium, granting all people the privileges that should be a human right.

But after being captured and tortured firstly by Kruger and his boykes and secondly by Elysium's forces, Max manages to escape and execute Spider's plan, granting the cure of leukemia to Frey's child Matilda, and the dispatch of an unknown number of Med-Bays to our homeworld, making every citizen of Earth a citizen of Elysium. The selfless seed planted by Wagner Moura's character only blossoms in Max after being watered by Matilda's tale:

"There once was a meerkat who lived in the jungle. He was hungry, but he was small, so small. And the other big animals had all the food because they could reach the fruits. So he made friends with a hippopotamus. The meerkat then can stand on the hippopotamus's back to get all the fruits he wants". Da Costa, the proletariat aware of his miserable conditions, but not socially conscient, asks the little girl: "What's in it for the hippo?". Who promptly answers to him: "The hippo wants a friend".

This quick and simple anecdote summons the whole idea behind Bloomkamp's message in this 2013 sci-fi blockbuster with Max's final sacrifice: to access basic conditions for human life - such as health, dwelling, education, and employability - society must unite beyond the status quo and self-profit conditions valued and encouraged by Capitalism. Instead, we must promote social conscience through social actions such as lecturing new generations; voting for and demanding pro-people measures from elected representatives; fighting to grant equal rights for overpowered groups such as women, immigrants, BPOCs, and first-nations people; fomenting environment awareness to reduce pollution, deforestation, and unbridled consuming; and so on.

Otherwise, the destiny of Earth will be in the hands of people like Kruger, a working-class law-abiding reactionary citizen who aims to get power to subjugate and keep the power in the hands of the one percent elite who get profits from misery, famine, and war. And to illustrate Sharlto Copley's militiaman character's dream I leave to you, fellow cinephile, a quote by Brazilian undoubtedly most fundamental educator, Paulo Freire: "when Education is not liberating, the dream of the oppressed is to become the oppressor".

A.N.: Title inspired by the song "Liberation" by Outkast.

By Victor “Vic Kings” Reis



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