Thursday, January 21, 2010

Movie Review: District 9

This is a cross-posted review from one of my posts of 2009 - I just watched this again recently on DVD and it prompted me to post the review on this page...the movie is too good to miss.

Before I launch into why this is another of my current LOVES, let's begin with a bit of summary: The actual 'District 9' is a compound for aliens. Basically, the movie plays out an alternative history where back in the early 80s an alien spaceship appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. The world watches the ship but it doesn't budge, cough, or scratch itself for three whole months. So, of course, curiosity gets the better of us humans and the special operations team is sent in to 'cut open' the spaceship and find out what the hell is lurking about. And it's not what they expected. Millions of aliens cowering in the darkness.

Like a whole bunch of Little Bo Peep's lost sheep, the aliens are shifted to a makeshift city away in the slums of Johannesburg, much to the chagrin of the human slum residents. The aliens are seen as a public nuisance, and in the last 20 years since they 'landed' have been coined with the dereogatory and kinda racist term 'Prawns', because of their physical resemblance to such creatures.

Enter Wikis - a totally naive, excitable, nerdalicious government bureaucrat, who leads a team of military men and P.A's into the compound with a 'notice to evict', to shift the aliens to a concentration camp-looking area further segregated from the humans known only as 'District 10'. Wikis goes into the compound brazenly and condescendingly, asking the aliens to 'scribble their name' to show they've 'understood' that they're going to be evicted. Some of them don't appear to understand what the hell 'eviction' even means...those who do and put up a fight are killed on the spot. Wherever an alien gives 'trouble', Wikis searches their unit, knowing them to be particularly 'evil' and harbouring weapons which his company could take and use to blast the shit out of people. Oh, if only the weapons didn't have to be activated by alien hands...

In a particular unit resides Christopher Jones, an alien with his young son. They've been doing something really naughty - trying to get back home. For the last 20 years, Jones has been secretly working to get the spaceship back on track. Wikis sniffs out Chris' hidden workshop, and gets totally sprayed by the alien DNA used as the secret 'fuel', the last piece to the puzzle of making the spacecraft work.
From this DNA spray, Wikis starts turning part alien. And the government want him for experiments and such. So he runs - to hide in the last place they will ever look for him - District 9.

I really don't know where to begin talking about the sheer superiority of this film. Peter Jackson backs it - he must have spotted the talent a mile away and poured his moolah into it because the resulting special effects are simply WOW. The aliens and the spacecraft look so real, especially placed against the dusty Iraq-war style landscape of the compound. And this movie is totally gory in the best way - I'm talking heads blown off, bodies ripped apart - everything. But it's super.

When you first start watching it, the Cloverfield/ Blair Witch handheld camera technique and the documentary style of the beginning sequences makes you wonder whether this will be as good as the critics have said it will be. The Boy actually leaned over to me about 10 minutes into it and said 'THIS movie got a perfect 10?" I nodded and wondered secretly to myself whether he would ever pay for my movie ticket again. And then suddenly, the story starts to build momentum - bricks are placed on bricks and the foundation is such that when you get to the suspenseful bits your heart is in your mouth and your fist is ready to pump the air when victory is at hand, and then suddenly you're totally deflated as the chance flies out the window. THAT'S the sort of tension you want to feel when you're at the movies - some EMOTION, people!!

I think what I liked best about this movie (besides the perfect plot and script) is the commentary on humanity. There's the underlying racial tension between the humans and the aliens, which you know is wrong straight away. But as a viewer, when I first saw the aliens, I was like "EWW"! And then, as the story plays out, somehow these aliens become more real to you than the humans. You feel for them not the way someone might feel for an ugly but vulnerable animal, but rather like your best friend. There's some uber poignant bits which I don't want to spoil here (I could go into very minute detail about this movie, the images are just seared into my brian) - but you need to know that this movie has absolutely everything from humour, to romance, to sci-fi dystopian setting, to action-packed gun-wielding scenes arnie swarznegger would be totes jealous of. And the added benefit is that it doesn't suffer from being a Hollywood Blockbuster - it's more indie with South-African actors (I think the writer or director or someone is a white South African himself).

I loved this movie so much - I don't know what else to say. I'm buying this as soon as it comes out on DVD of course, but the movie definitely benefits from the surround sound of the cinema complex. If you haven't been to the movies in ages, or you just 'dont like THAT sort of movie' then get off your arse and stop type-casting yourself and GO SEE THIS MOVIE. If you have a brain and a heart it will be a piece of entertainment for a while (the editing is beautifully done and the 2 hours you spend here will not be misused or feel drawn out at all). And who knows, you might love it as much as I did, and come crawling back to thank me profusely for making your life more meaningful. And just so you know, in this case - I accept cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes.

5 out of 5 stars for 'District 9'.


  1. I so agree. This is one of the best, yes best, movies I have seen in a very long time. It is so much more then what it appears on the "outside". It is highly entertaining yet there is an actual story, wonderful characters and dialogue and in the end, an important message.

  2. I was thoroughly impressed with this movie too, and it reflected humanity in a way that was -- sadly -- accurate. I LOVE the way you described how the viewer's perception of the aliens evolves. I think you were dead on!