The real story of the economics of 'Elysium'

Matt Damon in 'Elysium'
Source: Elysium

Last week, I finally watched Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium."

The film is set in a future in which the wealth gap has manifested itself in the most extreme way imaginable. The wealthy and the impoverished masses no longer dwell on the same planet. The rich have decamped for a orbital space station called Elysium while the poor dwell in decaying and overcrowded cities. There's no middle class to speak of, of course.

Yes, I realize the movie was in theaters months ago. But it's just recently out on the various streaming media networks and probably available on DVD (whatever those are). So no doubt many who didn't catch it when it was initially released (apparently most people) will see it now.

The plot is basically a heist. Matt Damon plays an ex-con who is trying to go straight. He's taken a factory job and is pursuing his childhood sweetheart, a single mother who is a nurse. The robot police and parole system keep coming down on Damon, and his former crime associates are trying to lure him back into the life.

Damon tries to stay on the straight and narrow until a workplace accident exposes him to high levels of radiation. What's more, the nurse's daughter has advanced leukemia. The only way for him and the daughter to survive is to break into Elysium and use its high-tech healing beds.

But to do that, Damon must enlist the help of his old gang, whose leader agrees to help on the condition that Damon assist in a billion-dollar high-tech robbery.

(Read more: Protecting JPMorgan from China's corruption)

"Elysium" generated a lot of debate over its politics when it came out last spring. Many thought it was a kind of space allegory for Occupy Wall Street. But if you look at the economic situation the movie depicts, things are far more complex.

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