9 October 2009

Movie Review: District 9


District 9
2009, 112mins, R
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer (s): Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Cast includes: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, John Sumner, Nathalie Boltt, William Allen Young
Release Date: 14th August 2009

Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9 “ is a marvellous sci-fi production, a picture that actually makes good on the many intriguing promises made by it’s advertising campaign. Fans of thought provoking social commentary and gun blazing action will have their thirsts comfortably sated by this radical step-up for popular filmmaking. Those fearing a preachy and overly barren theatrical diversion need not fear as “District 9” operates perfectly as a gore soaked thriller, maintaining a deep and superbly layered narrative in the process.

“District 9” starts with the revelation that since 1990 alien’s have been on earth, the creature’s giant spacecraft having coming to a stop over Johannesburg in South Africa. After retrieving the malnourished extra terrestrials and renaming them “prawns” mankind quarantined the beasts into a slum like area known as “District 9”, but of late the people of Johannesburg are frustrated by the close proximity shared by them and the creatures. In a bid to keep the masses contented the government enlists operative Wikus (Sharlto Copley) to lead a team in clearing out the prawn district and moving them to a more secluded and remote location. However after accidently being infected by an alien contaminate Wikus is quickly made the target of experimentation and radical violence, leading him to flee and seek refuge in District 9. There he befriends some of its inhabitants and learns of a plot that will allow the prawns to escape and which might be able to restore him to normal health.

I had high expectations for “District 9” and it’s a testament to the picture that it not only fulfilled but exceeded such hopes, delivering a wham bam alien movie and some delicious storytelling all in one. It’s a rarity to encounter mainstream entertainment as thoroughly immersive and socially aware as “District 9”, or indeed a summer film that mounts to a climax rather than giving up the ghost halfway in. Coming from the production realm of Peter Jackson it shouldn’t surprise viewers to find that “District 9” is a different and fresher commodity than most current day event pictures, yet to find it so rewarding and palatable is a genuine treat.

The key performance in the film comes courtesy of Copley as Wikus, the relative unknown delivering an emotive and engaging anchor for the audience. It’s hard to debate that “District 9” wouldn’t have suffered had a performance as capable as Copley’s not been offered, yet it’s shocking to see how expressive and intimate the CGI rendered Prawns are. The film pitches itself very much as a case of man hating E.T and the cruel treatment of the aliens makes them the more sympathetic commodity. The creatures have been expertly crafted and the digitals deployed are state of the art, even the screenplay warps beautifully to make the prawns as affecting and full of life as possible. Certainly combining beside Copley’s tortured turn it’s not hard to buy these life forms as fully fledged and important characters.

The film moves at a rip roaring pace despite a meaty 112 minute runtime, whilst its thriller elements exhibit the skill and measured composure of a masterpiece. “District 9” builds to its shamefully bombastic and enjoyable climax, oozing tension and high octane thrills along the way. I would have no qualms in nominating the FX heavy finish as amongst the picture’s most exciting and spectacular scenes, yet it would be positively unruly not to offer the rest of the effort as much artistic credit. “District 9” is a motion picture intent on stirring both cerebral thrills and intelligence at the same time, it’s mix of banging action and well executed observations a cocktail for big screen success.

The screenplay clearly draws inspiration from the Apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1970’s, the parallels subtle but extremely involving. From a humanitarian perspective “District 9” is not to be underestimated as it features a roster of interesting screen entities and a powerful damning of mankind. Blomkamp shows brave chops as a filmmaker to have conducted his debut on such controversial and yet important terms, like the best sci-fi film’s “District 9” has something genuinely relevant and touching to say. As an alien film this is sensational but when combined with its hidden political agenda “District 9” becomes something of a masterpiece.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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