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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Elysium can be found here.
Former car thief Max da Costa (Matt Damon), now a parolee working for the Armadyne weapons factory in 2154 Los Angeles and recently exposed to a lethal dose of radiation bound to kill him in five days, agrees to steal 'organic information' (e.g., bank codes and passwords) from the brain of Armadyne CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) in exchange for passage to Elysium, a man-made space station inhabited by Earth's elite, in hopes of gaining access to a Med-bay, a medical chamber capable of healing him. However, what begins as a desperate effort to save his life leads to something far greater.
Elysium is based on a screenplay written by South African-Canadian film maker Neill Blomkamp.
While Frey (Alice Braga) carries Matilda (Emma Tremblay) to the surface to find a Med-bay, Max and Spider (Wagner Moura) stay behind to locate the Elysium's computer core. In an attempt to stop them, Tucker (Sharlto Copley) pursues, but Max manages to kill him by hurling him over a ledge, still holding on to a grenade, which explodes as he falls. Spider breaks into the computer core and changes the computer program to read Earth's population as being 'legal'. As Spider prepares to download the 'organic info' from Max's brain, he is warned that the download will be 'lethal' to Max. Already knowing that, Max still agrees to the download. After contacting Frey for a final goodbye, Max pushes the button that starts the download and reboots the computer, killing himself in the process. President Patel (Faran Tahir) arrives with security robots, but they refuse to arrest Spider, who is now recognized as a citizen of Elysium. Meanwhile, Frey has found a Med-bay and uses it to heal Matilda, reversing her final stage lymphocytic leukemia in seconds. In the final scene, shuttles containing dozens of Med-bays arrive on Earth from Elysium to begin the process of healing the sick, causing Frey to look up and smile.
Elysium spins, like a wheel, and the resulting centrifugal force creates artificial gravity on its inner edge. This keeps both its inhabitants and the atmosphere [not really, see entry above!] effectively pinned down to the surface. It's an old concept for a practical way to achieve artificial gravity in space.
Oxygen in Elysium's atmosphere could be maintained by plant photosynthesis converting exhaled CO2 to oxygen. The bigger problem is that atmosphere could not be retained without some kind of "force field", like we see the "bad guy" using twice to defend against Max's weapon fire. Assuming that Elysium rotates to generate an artificial standard Earth gravity, "artificial gravity" COULD NOT retain the atmosphere! Nor could it produce anything close to normal air pressure! Without a magic force field, the atmosphere would be lost very quickly for many reasons. Brownian motion alone would be enough to continuously kick molecules of air up and over the lip of the station. Once over the lip, centripetal force would fling the air molecules out into space, lost forever. Note: This doesn't happen on Earth, because real gravity pulls atmosphere back, no matter where it goes. Unless it's moving faster than the Earth escape velocity of 11km/sec, which is really fast! A bigger problem is that gravity isn't what creates atmospheric pressure: It's the weight of air above. That's why the air is so thin on top of Mount Everest, even though the force of gravity is nearly the same as the gravity at sea level (G=9.8 vs 9.7)
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