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Caution: potential spoilers.
This is writer/director Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9 (though it's not related to that film). I mention it because there's a certain similarity between the films, in that they're both dystopian sci-fi movies that want to be allegories for real world issues. (I put my review of District 9 in my science fiction section, but when I later started my section for dystopian movies, I added a link to it there. When I watched this movie in 2016- three years after it came out- I put the review in the dystopian section, and added a link to it in the sci-fi section. Honestly, though, both movies are pretty much equal parts of each genre, though this one is mostly an action movie.) While watching it, I kind of thought I'd end up rating it 3 or 4 smileys, though near the end I thought I'd actually give it one heart (which is the next rating after 4 smileys). Ultimately, though, I scaled it back to 4 smileys, because I can't really say I loved the movie. But I did love the outcome of the plot. (You may notice that I gave this film one smiley more than I did District 9. I want to be clear that D9 was a better film than this, but I think I enjoyed this one a bit more. I could be wrong, though; my memory is very fallible, and certainly I'd rather re-watch that film than this one. If and when I do, I might raise my original rating of District 9.)
Anyway... I'm not sure what the year is when it starts out, but probably sometime in the 2120s or 30s. Earth is in pretty rough shape, but there's a massive space station called Elysium, where the richest people live. On the inside, the landscape pretty much like Earth used to be... I mean, it's not like a space station. People have mansions with beautiful grounds, and whatnot. But of course they also have robot servants and medical pods that instantly cure absolutely any problem short of death (and even some problems that seem like they should have resulted in death). Back on Earth, a young boy named Max hopes to someday go to Elysium, and there's a girl named Frey whom he wants to bring with him.
The movie then flashes forward to 2154, when Max (Matt Damon) is a car thief who's on parole, and has a job in a factory that manufactures robots and whatnot. Max ends up having a really bad day, but it's okay, because it results in his seeing Frey for the first time in quite awhile. She's a nurse now, and she's got a young daughter named Matilda (though Max doesn't learn of her existence until sometime later). Anyway, he makes a date to have coffee with Frey in a couple of days or so, but that never happens. Because when he goes back to work, he has an accident that exposes him to a lethal dose of radiation, and he's told he has five days to live. So he gets his friend Julio to take him to see a guy called Spider, whom Max used to work for (and I guess Julio still does). Spider offers Max a deal to get him to Elysium, where his incurable-on-Earth condition could be cured very easily. But first, Max has to have an operation that grafts an exoskeleton onto his body, making him much stronger. He also has an implant put in his head to steal information from the head of a guy named John Carlyle, who is from Elysium, but has been on Earth for awhile trying to improve profitability of his company... which happens to be the one Max worked for.
There are a couple of plot threads that intersect with Max's story. First, the Defense Secretary of Elysium, a woman named Delacourt (Jodie Foster), hatches a plot with Carlyle to program a reboot of Elysium that would allow her to become the new President. So of course Max ends up getting that information out of Carlyle's head, though it will be awhile before Max realizes what he has. There's also the fact that Matilda is dying of leukemia, so Frey wants Max to help her get her daughter to Elysium, so she can be cured. Also there's a sleeper agent named Kruger, whom Delacourt had recently used for an unauthorized action that resulted in Kruger being fired and Delacourt being reprimanded by President Patel (which was why she wanted to replace him, and probably why Kruger was willing to help with her new plan). She now sends Kruger and his team to stop Max and retrieve the information he had stolen.
I fear I've said some things out of order. But a lot more stuff happens, none of which I want to spoil. As I said, it's mostly an action movie, and I thought it did fairly well on that front. The sci-fi was so-so, and the allegory... meh, I dunno. But I found the stakes compelling, and regardless of what I thought of the path the story took to reach its goal... well, as I said, I loved the outcome. Partly for the sake of the adorable Matilda, but mostly for the sake of the entire human race. (Did any of it make sense? Not really. But unlike some movies that don't make sense, I thought it was easy to follow. And to be honest, I didn't feel like the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy the story was too drastically greater than what's required of most movies. Especially sci-fi movies. Even the good ones. So whatevs, a happy ending is a happy ending.)