Synopsis: “Thirty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa’s District 9 as the world’s nations argued over what to do with them. Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens’ welfare – they will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens’ awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA. The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable – he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.”
Now I don’t want to give away any of the plot other than the officially released plot summary above, because this is one of my favourite movies of 2009. There I said it! This is a well thought out and somewhat original take on the whole Alien Invasion genre. Normally we see one of two things in our alien films. Either the aliens sneak amidst us with clever disguises or they invade with all guns blazing. Here we have quite the opposite, an alien race stuck in transit, caught on a strange planet with no way of leaving and absolutely no acceptance.
“District 9” is a clever parallel of the plight of a disenfranchised people. Just like we have seen throughout our history with many an ethnic group such as African Americans, the Black South Africans, Rwanda, Somalia and so many more. A people who are different and therefore ostracised and ill-treated. A deeply moving tale that mirrors much of our history but by changing the genre it becomes easier to understand and somewhat less personal to take.
“District 9” has snuck up on most of us, especially considering it has been produced by our very own Peter Jackson. A man who has an eye for the interesting, with the ability to take an intriguing idea and transfer it on to the celluloid. Joined by first time director Neill Blomkamp. Filmed in the style of a documentary mixed with a general third person action feel, “District 9” tactfully pulls together several completely different genres in a clever and smooth flowing format.
Considering this movie was shot on a very low budget for a Sci-Fi thriller (US$30 million as confirmed by Peter Jackson) and backed with a clever marketing campaign similar in style to “The Blair Witch Project”. Promote it with as little information as possible leaving the prospective audience desperately wanting to know what it’s all about.
Well let me summarise what I liked about the film. Great acting performances by a collection of non-recognisable actors. A well thought out plotline that leads you to discover personally moving character struggles set amidst some impressive CGI with a splattering of action and thrill to keep you on the edge of your seat. But unlike Transformers and GI Joe and other similar films, “District 9” does not rely on the effects to draw you in. In fact the action and effects are very secondary to the intense plotlines and well developed characters.
Go and be surprised by something that you know very little about and defies general categorising and classification.
Reviewed by: Jon E Clist
Releases: 13th August 2009
Rating: R16 – Violence & Offensive Language
Running time: 112 minutes
Genre: Thriller, Sci Fi
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope & Nathalie Bolt
Director: Neill Blomkamp