District 9 Review

Posted: December 8, 2009 in Review
Tags: , , , ,

District 9 Review

First-time feature director Neill Blomkamp takes a chance re-envisioning his own short film that caught the attention of producer Peter Jackson. Selfish wish fulfilment or inspired work of art?

The answer is very much in the latter camp waving flags, dancing around the fire and screaming aloud – District 9 is, quite simply, a goddamn masterpiece.

It begins so simply with a documentary explaining that in the 1980’s, an alien mothership suddenly appeared over Johannesburg and the aliens inside were allowed to live on Earth in a camp set up underneath the vessel, in the titular District 9. Flashforward to the present day and District 9 is a war-torn slum controlled by vile gangs, while Multi-National United (MNU) has assigned the optimistic young ladder climbing Wikus the duty of informing all the aliens that they are to be evicted to a new camp under stricter control. Whilst doing his job, Wikus is accidentally sprayed with a strange fluid that begins to change him and his entire world…

It’s here that complete credit must be given to actor Sharlto Copley. The entire film is built upon his earnest, convincing, moving portrait of a career man completely broken and his performance is, quite simply, flawless. Neill Blomkamp’s direction is also outstanding, allowing the maximum amount of human drama to bleed through where necessary and then totally ramping it up for the mind-blowingly impressive and spectacular all-out action pieces.

It’s essentially a film in three stages: the opening documentary effortlessly turns into a human drama/ horror in the manner of The Fly which then morphs into a war movie. What’s most impressive is that the whole thing is nothing less than believable, heartbreaking and compelling.

The CGI is flawless throughout – another stunning achievement for a film that cost a ‘mere’ $30 million to make. The aliens are distinctive and memorable and the ones you are supposed to follow are even coloured differently to stand out – take that, Transformers. It’s a powerful, moving slice of cinema with sympathetic heroes – both human and alien – and some of the most despicable villains to ever appear in sci-fi. Seriously, look in the dictionary under ‘bastard’ and you’ll see these guys.

If there are nits to pick then it is that the political message is as subtle as a punch in the genitals, the final action sequence is slightly too Hollywood given the stunning build-up and that the talking heads are distracting and unnecessary after the documentary footage has ended. That said, reviews are entirely opinions of individuals and this individual is too busy collecting his jaw before it gets caught up in his shoes to care for the complaints.

Epic cinema, epically told, with human drama more unflinchingly honest than most kitchen sink dramas and action that will make Michael Bay cry himself to sleep. If there’s any justice in the world, this will be considered as one of the best sci-fi films of the decade, if not one of the best films of the past ten years.

5 stars

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