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District 9 (2009)

You are not welcome here.

Starring:

Jason Cope

John Sumner

Louis Minnaar

Marian Hooman

Sharlto Copley

Stella Steenkamp

Vanessa Haywood

Vittorio Leonardi

William Allen Young

Directed by:

Neill Blomkamp

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: South Africa, New Zealand (Aotearoa), United States

After all the hype surrounding District 9, I was afraid to let myself get carried away, however Peter Jackson’s protégé Neill Blomkamp delivers one of the best films of the year so far. Not only that, but it is certainly the best science-fiction film in decades and could revitalise the genre, just like the British-made 28 Days Later… did with the modern zombie movie.

District 9 opens in a glorious documentary format – stylish, humorous and coherent – which introduces the viewer to a Johannesburg that has lived in the shadow of a giant UFO for twenty years. The alien spacecraft didn’t bring the usual ilk of alien invaders but instead one million starving asylum seekers. Unsure what to do, the South African government housed them in a militarised ghetto where the ‘prawns’, a derogatory term used because of their shellfish-like appearance, live a life of violence and squalor. In a bid to improve human-alien relations, officials choose to re-house them out of sight and out of mind and they send in Wikus (Copley) and the henchmen of the giant corporation, MNU, to evict them. Things go to plan with a brutal efficiency until Wikus becomes infected and starts to transform into an alien. Seeing that he can now use the alien’s powerful technology he is hunted by both humans and aliens.

Although not the most subtle allegory for the apartheid in South Africa, this is a very original and clever premise that would not look out of place in an Orwell or Huxley novel. It also takes a look at immigration, multinational corporations and private security firms and keeps you thinking throughout. After the original scene-setting it then opens out into classic sci-fi and action territory as we witness brilliantly executed gun battles, alien experiments and government conspiracies.

Blomkamp’s characterisation is deep and well-rounded. We observe Wikus, starting as a rather slimy, heartless jobsworth, become more human the more he mutates and so we come to care about the outcome. Even Christopher Johnson the alien (I didn’t make that up) is given a personality and he seems more human in the end than most of people who are trying to kill him. Having said all this, the film’s portrayal of the Nigerian gangsters dwelling in District 9 could actually be considered quite racist – into the occult, inconsolably criminal and subtitled (even though they are speaking in English) – which all seems a little unnecessary.

It's Got: Intelligence, action, style

It Needs: To be consistent with its stereotypes

Summary

This intelligent South African movie is a brilliant combination of social commentary, sci-fi and action.

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