Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Movie Review: District 9 (2009)

District 9 (2009)
Director - Neill Blomkamp
Runtime - 112 min; R
Wikus Van De Merwe - Sharlto Copley

It doesn’t take long for us to actually see the aliens in District 9, and that is very refreshing compared to so many films that make you wait in anticipation for more than half the film to get a glimpse of what the hubbub is all about. These aliens are not Close Encounters of the Third Kind-like, rather they are surprisingly similar to the alien in Predator, only not so much on a mission to kill as a mission to eat cat-food.

The plot can actually be summed up quite simply: In 1982 a spacecraft hovered over Johannesburg, South Africa, for reasons unknown. 3 months later humans entered the craft and found several aliens cramped and mal-nourished. Fearing a global backlash at anything inhumane, District 9 was set up as a shanty city in which the aliens would live and be loosely governed. Now, 28 years later, the people are fed up with it and want them out. MNU (Multi-National-United) is the corporation that is going to move all 1.8 million aliens several hundred miles away to a new tent-city. This is the main job for Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a corporate man who needs to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Of course, it doesn’t all go smoothly.

There were aspects of this film that bothered me on a purely critical level, specifically some plot continuity and reasoning, and there are also the clear political aspects of apartheid and South African history in general, but I’m not even going to touch that here, because this film is just too much fun to take any shots at it.

Definitely see this film and prepare yourself for a good old-fashioned sci-fi ride. There is death and destruction and other-worldly notions along with laughter and deeper meanings, all of which add up to a well told story held completely together on the wonderful role of Wikus. Sharlto Copley deserves an award simply for making us care about him, and the range he delivers throughout is outstanding. He is able to take a standard corporate worker personality and, by the films startling ending, have us believing everything that has changed about him.

At just under 2 hours the film turns sort of conventional with 30 minutes to go, and I wish it could have held the originality of the first half throughout. With that said, I believe you will find enough interesting shots in this film to keep you engaged and guessing, and I think re-watch ability will be high.

**** out of 5

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