District 9 (2009)

A bureaucrat finds that he’s nothing more than a little prawn in a bigger game…

Ahh, the science fiction genre. From the sleek, shiny, warp-driven fun of Star Trek to the grimy, hot discomfort of Hardware, sci-fi has a range much further than many who dismiss it as nothing more than spaceships and robots would have you believe. And, while District 9 does have a spaceship in the mix and one robotic weapon suit type thing it’s quite the genre-hopping triumph as it moves from a fantastical look at apartheid to a more simplistic, still highly entertaining, action thriller.

Sharlto Copley plays Wikus Wan De Merwe, a rather hapless and callous bureaucrat who has to oversee the serving of eviction notices to the residents of the titular district 9. Those residents happen to be aliens who landed on Earth some time ago and have been forced to live in their own little slum ever since. All does not go smoothly for Wikus, however, and he soon finds that rather than evicting aliens he has to rely on them for help as his life falls to pieces around his ankles and he tries to fix the situation while avoiding the people he used to work alongside.

Director Neil Blomkamp expands upon his original short movie and creates something both highly derivative yet also highly unique. He blends many sci-fi staples and references a lot of other works while also making everything feel fresh and new, perhaps just helped along by the presentation of the thing or perhaps just due to the care given to everything from the central ideas to the investment you end up having in characters you never thought you’d care for.

The acting is all superb (newcomer Copley deserves special praise for his lead turn, really managing to initially turn you off his character before somehow showing enough humanity to win you back around as things start to go awry) and the effects are impressive even if they often stand out as BEING effects (as opposed to computer work that blends in seamlessly and can sometimes even go unnoticed to those not looking out for it).

But what this movie does best, though many may see it as a negative point, is jump through a number of hoops while changing tone. Things start off as a black comedy/satire before moving into darker territory in the middle section before pulling out all the stops in a rip-roaring final reel that should please any sci-fi action fan.

It may have been a little overpraised upon it’s release but I’d have to agree with those who really loved this film. It has a hell of a lot of fun while also probing at some serious matters just below the surface. Blomkamp (helped in the writing by Terri Tatchell) may not please everyone with his presentation of the material but that doesn’t really bother me when it’s my personal opinion being given in these reviews. At the end of the day, he pleased me.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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