Jodie Foster as Hannibal the Cannibal?
Reviewed By: Avraham Azrieli
Avraham Azrieli writes books and screenplays. His website is: www.AzrieliBooks.com
In her recent Elysium performance, does Jodie Foster take on the persona of her Silence of the Lambs nemesis?
Now, before hoards of angry Foster groupies break into street riots, rest assured that this assertion is not a disparagement of her acting ability. In fact, Foster is totally believable in the character she’s playing – Elysium’s tough defense secretary who does what it takes to protect humanity’s rich minority from the rest of us.
Why the comparison to Dr. Hannibal Lecter?
First of all, unlike her past roles as an underdog, protagonist, or victim, here Jodie Foster plays the bad guy. And not just any bad guy, but someone who stands out from the evil crowd in both IQ and panache.
Second, her acting in Elysium hints that, to prepare for it, she watched Silence of the Lambs – not to check on her own performance, but to learn from the master menace of cool psychopathy. Foster (as Defense Secretary Rhodes) is cool, confident, smart, and educated (she even speaks French!). She issues orders to terminate the innocent while manipulating everyone and staying ahead of her opponents, who are weakened by human conscience and tedious handwringing.
Third, while Foster’s murderous actions do not include cooking her victims, her malevolence is no less. In Silence of the Lambs, we never saw actual flesh-eating by Dr. Lecter, yet we believed it through the clever plotting and magical acting. Foster reenacts this cultured-brutality in a feminine version of stylish civility, allowing her to eliminate, clean up or dispose of targets without using harsh words or showing even the slightest increase in pulse.
Fourth, Elysium uses Foster to scare us on another level altogether. While the movie delivers a truly enjoyable science fiction thrill with a striking visual world and wonderful acting, it achieves much more than that. Without hitting viewers over the head, Elysium tackles a timely social ticking bomb: The growing gap between the few haves and the multitudes of have-nots.
Showing us where this gap, if it continues to widen, will take us, writer-director-producer Neill Blomkamp artfully weaves into Elysium the social disparities of today in food supplies, healthcare availability, citizenship rights, personal safety, and child wellbeing. The difference between today’s world and the future world of Elysium is that the gated communities have all relocated to a highly sophisticated space-based habitat that’s visible yet unreachable from Earth.
That habitat, Elysium, also serves as the seat of government. Unlike our current political leaders, the Elysium government no longer pretends to serve everyone. It shamelessly cradles the tiny rich minority while suppressing the multitudes of the working poor, left back on a ravaged Earth. An all-knowing system of police forces (using robots, of course) restrains the population, while sophisticated space weapons eliminate anyone trying to reach the idyllic cocoon in which the rich live.
In summary: With Foster as a Dr. Lecter protégé, Matt Damon as the ultimate hero, and Alice Braga, Sharito Copely and Wagner Moura in supporting roles, Elysium delivers a highly enjoyable science-fiction thriller with all the goodies we’ve come to expect: Believable characters, fierce human conflict, wondrous technology, intense non-stop action, surprising plot-twists and setbacks, a phenomenal climax, and a heartbreaking-yet-satisfying resolution. But as any schoolteacher knows, a great story is the best way to dramatize a civic lesson, which is how Elysium delivers its underlying, thought-provoking and scary social message. Or, to quote another great movie, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”