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District 9 (2009)

You are not welcome here.

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

I was instantly suspicious of District 9, because it’s been a while since a film—especially a sci-fi film—has received such universal praise. Even the guys online who usually get their movies pirate-style were saying no, you HAVE to see this one in a theater. So, I was ready for greatness, but my cynical side was prepared for disappointment. My cynical side should’ve stayed home, because it was very soundly pummeled by my movie-loving side.

Unlike pretty much every aliens-come-to-Earth movie, the aliens of District 9 didn’t come guns blazing, they didn’t plan to overtake our planet, and they weren’t even on some expedition to share their vast knowledge. In fact, it’s not really ever really explained why they’re here, just that twenty years prior to the film’s opening, their ship seemed to break down mid-hover over Johannesburg, South Africa and since then, these aliens have been forced to live in slums and treated horribly by us humans. As an example of this, we see what happened when one Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), on assignment to relocate some aliens to another district, finds himself on the bad end of things, and he has to face his own humanity—what that means exactly.

It’s a hard film to describe, this District 9, because it truly is so many genres all in one. It’s definitely and blatantly science fiction, because there are aliens, spaceships, and gunfire a’plenty. But it’s also very much a social commentary, which though, at times, is a little heavy-handed, it’s still timely, still thought-provoking, and even in its heavy handedness, is still sometimes subtle. Probably the best decision anyone could have made with this film was to fill the cast with an ensemble of virtual unknowns, and even with all the action (done superbly, by the way, as are the makeup and effects), it never feels like an “action” flick because there’s not a big, recognizable guns and bombs star like Will Smith or Tom Cruise. In the hands of an experienced director, this would still have been a fantastic movie, but Neill Blomkamp, director and co-screenwriter, is new to these waters, and that itself makes it phenomenal—but the fact that all that stuff is true AND a large part of the film is in alien subtitle spoken by creatures that are by no means the Holywood alien ideal for looking at … well, you see how it could’ve been a disaster.

Overall, I hate it when a critic uses words like “phenomenal” or “fantastic” and goes all gushy like a fangirl. District 9 is that good, though, and is really a movie you have to see about four times, for yourself, because if you don’t, you’ll be missing out on a future classic.

It's Got: Unknown actors delivering spectacular performances, perfect special effects, a timely story

It Needs: To be seen


A film that transcends in genre, District 9 is an instant classic that gives sci-fi the boost of credibility it’s deserved for a long time.