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"District 9" [Theatrical Release]
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Sony Pictures
Genre: Sci-Fi Release: August,14 2009
Cast: Sharlto Copley,Jason Cope,Nathalie Boltt,Sylvaine Strike
Director:
Neill Blomkamp
Review:

An entertaining mixture of allegory, satire and science fiction thriller "District 9" uses a combination of the documentary style filmmaking that has become popular over the years (hand held jittery camera moves) as well as static shots of talking heads that you would see in a real documentary along with other cinematic techniques to tell a gritty first contact tale and how our main character manages to rediscover his humanity after interacting with an alien species. The last third delivers on the promise of action but I thought it could have been a bit more imaginative at the end in implementing that section. This is an extremely good movie that manages to pack a variety of elements into its story.***

Government employee Wilkus Van De Merwe (newcomer Sharlto Copley)is put in charge of evicting and resettling an alien race of creatures that have become stranded on Earth. Forced to live in slums not unlike those that existed during apartheid, the creatures referred to as Prawns (because they resemble shrimp)brought oodles of alien technology with them but humans are unable to use them because the technology only responds to their DNA.The organization he's working for the MNU clearly have their own agenda beyond keeping the aliens and humanity segregated. Merwe's mission goes horribly wrong which puts him on the run and he finds the only sympathy among the aliens that he and other humans find disgusting. Throw in Nigerian arms dealers, a shadowy government agency that is doing things that even Merwe wasn't aware of and you have a strong thriller that has a message that doesn't become too heavy handed.***

Neill Blomkamp's first feature film packs quite a lot into its 111 minutes; the film is at turns satrical, ironic and while allegorical the director doesn't let the themes of prejudice overwhelm the often moving story at its core. The visual effects done by producer Peter Jackson's WETA studios look marvelous and are well integrated into the story running rings around what many other visual effects houses might have done.***

Blomkamp keeps his drama rooted in gritty reality by using a variety of film techniques but ultimately what makes the film blososm is the strong performance by Sharlto Copley as a government worker used to looking down on the "prawns" and cheerfully doing whatever he is asked to do.***

Blomkamp's film does borrow a number of motifs from other films including "The Fly" and even "Aliens" but he integrates them so well into his story that they aren't distracting. He also tackles a number of themes that have been examined in other science fiction films in the past including "Alien Nation" but grounds the story in reality which gives it a stronger and more believable impact. While "District 9" isn't completely original borrowing as it does from other science fiction films and dramas it does manage to make the parts much greater than the whole.***

The third act becomes a standard space opera shoot 'em up while detracts from the fascinating first two acts but the last shot of the film redeems the third act fumble for me. If "District 9" is flawed it at least has its heart in the right place even if the film does become predictable by the last third.***

Final Words:

"One bit of advice-disregard the hype because it will probably build up expectations so much that the film can't possibly live up to them. Don't expect all of the unanswered questions in the film to be neatly sewn up at the conclusion of the film and take the film on its own terms and you'll enjoy this science fiction thriller. Considering how many bad films get released during the summmere its refreshing to see one that actually has a bit of ambition beyond mindless and loud entertainment.***

 

 
 
 
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