You know not to expect something deep and meaningful when a movie stars Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and indeed this is pretty much what we expect: a slick thriller that's utterly preposterous but not quite stupid. But the premise has a certain idiotic charm to it, and there are just enough clever touches to keep our brains engaged.
Stallone plays brilliant security expert Breslin, whose job entails being thrown into maximum-security prisons so he can find the weakness in the system. Clearly unbothered by being beaten and brutalised by guards and inmates, Breslin is backed up by a support crew (Ryan and Jackson) and his business partner (D'Onofrio) back in the office. But now the CIA wants Breslin to check out its new top-secret enemy combatant lock-down. To do this, Breslin must go off the grid. And when he realises that the evil warden Hobbes (Caviezel) isn't playing ball, he teams up with brilliant scientist inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to, yes, plan an escape.
As the story develops we get the feeling that the screenwriters sat around thinking of ways they could make this prison increasingly impossible to believe. Indeed, one mid-film twist is so incredible that it actually makes us admire the writers' audacity. Arthouse director Halstrom gleefully indulges in all of this silliness, keeping the imagery sharp and cool while name-checking pretty much every cliche of both prison and heist movies. There's even a bit of political context in the way a private contractor is abusing the system to profit from the War on Terror.
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Simon Kinberg, William Fichtner, Faran Tahir, Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Neill Blomkamp, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga and Diego - Elysium World Premiere - Westwood, CA, United States - Thursday 8th August 2013
Ray Breslin is an expert in structural-security and has been able to break out of every prison he has been placed in using highly skilled and unusual methods. However, when he is asked to design an escape proof prison for the country's biggest life-sentenced felons, he finds himself betrayed when he is subsequently kidnapped and incarcerated by a masked figure in that prison with no way of getting out. It is there he befriends Swan Rottmayer; a smart but aggressive inmate who takes a shine to Ray when he explains his determination to escape. Swan agrees to help, but this time it's going to take more than just clever methods to break free and find the people who double-crossed him.
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It's the year 2154 and Max Da Costa is living in the densely populated, crime and war ravaged wasteland that is the planet Earth. Meanwhile, the rich and the privileged live on an orbital settlement in space called Elysium which boasts perfect landscapes, no poverty and medical advancements that can eliminate illnesses such as cancer in half a second. Despite Earth being a disease-stricken planet with little resources to go around, Secretary Rhodes is vehemently strict with her immigration laws disallowing anyone of a lower class to be allowed into their utopia even in the case of the most serious of illnesses. An ailing Max is determined to survive, however, even if it means embarking on a highly dangerous mission to break into the highly guarded space habitat and retrieve medical resources that could save him and the rest of the suffering population.
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Charlie Wilson's War is entertaining, and that's about the extent of it. Nichols and Sorkin's end result is decidedly a gloss on Crile's account of how the eponymous Texas congressman managed to supply military support to the Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. While their movie mostly avoids the Hollywood trappings of political correctness and underdog sentimentality, it also doesn't have the chutzpah of its own conniving characters to offer much in the way of an incisive interpretation of those events.
Continue reading: Charlie Wilson's War Review