Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope,
Mandla Gaduka, Vanessa Haywood, Kenneth Nkosi, Louis Minnaar,
William Allen Young, Hlengiwe Madlala
RunTime: 1 hr 52 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & InnoForm
Official Website: http://www.d-9.com/
Opening Day: 13 August 2009
An extraterrestrial race forced to live in
slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly find a kindred spirit
in a government agent that is exposed to their biotechnology.
District 9 is a modern day sci-fi epic that’s a classic in the making. This movie sets a precedent in the sci-fi genre by blending realistic bigotry with an entertaining premise of alien stranded and squatting on planet earth. It hooks the audience right from the start with it’s intriguing premises and never let up until the end credits started to roll.
On one level, this movie functions as a mindless summer blockbuster. From fumbling comedic antics of the protagonist to the blazing gunfights featuring gigantic robot (with awesome but subtle computer effects), the audience are treated to a chain of events that simply entertains. The movie also locked the audience’s attention as it perks our inquisitiveness to find out more about these unwelcome visitors and (pardon the expression) when will the shit hits the fan.
On the cerebral level, District 9 dealt with issues of segregation and the darkness of human behavior (i.e selfishness, greed, arrogance and contempt for other races/species). Like a mirror, it reflects on events that transpired in South Africa (Look up for Cape Town District 6) and it reveals the roots of the problems. It also poses the question on how multinational corporate / organization really function and a horrifying perspective of the extremes that the moneyman would do for profits.
However the most disturbing aspect of this movie wasn’t how ugly the aliens looked like or how filthy and polluted their living conditions are. The most disturbing aspect of this movie would be the darkness of men’s soul and ignorant arrogance that exist in us. District 9 shone a spotlight on how we treat species (or even race) that we deem less superior and while this is a movie, it often rings an eerie familiarity to what’s happening in real life.
Last but not least, the last story arc of District 9 is filled with a tinge of unexpected romanticism. It revolves around promises spoken and not spoken that were subtly poignant. It does not bring on big changes immediately but it gave hope that it’s taking small steps into making the change.
Who would expect that this fine movie was a product of a first time director and actor? The amazing bit would be that all this was achieved with only a budget of 30 million. Peter Jackson was spot on and had chosen the right people to support.
Neill Blomkamp’s feature directorial debut flies off to a promising start. He deftly combined the documentary style of filming with the usual cinematic cinematography that transports the viewers into the thick of the battle and grime without the giddiness of Cloverfield.
Another thing that impressed me was his storytelling manner in District 9. In a way, he managed to invoke a sense of disgust towards the aliens in the first part, allowing the audience to relate and comprehend why the human residents and the “authorities” would like to relocate them. As the story changes it’s tune, we find ourselves sympathizing the aliens and see the foolishness of the human’s actions. He handled and balanced various elements of the show like a pro who been doing this for many years and District 9 makes one wonder what if Halo had been given the go ahead with him in the directing duties.
Beside the director, the protagonist was played by a first timer too. Sharlto Copley, a first time actor was outstanding as the rather unexpected protagonist, Wikus Van De Merwe. In the beginning, he completely sold the performance as a schmuck field operative. He was so good in his performance that one would assume that he is part of the supporting cast who was there to amuse and ultimately die of some sort of horrible gruesome death.
Then as the events take a turn for the worse, his performance translate a sense of fear and heroic that felt so genuine which made his character so sympathetic that it made one root for the character’s survival. In the end, it was a surprising sweeping performance for a newcomer that leaves me anticipating what’s next for this actor.
In closing, District 9 is a testament that the summer blockbuster doesn’t have to be brainless entertainment. In fact, if it’s as well made as District 9, it could be function in both ways. On a superficial level, it’s a brainless amusement; exciting and funny with spectacular special effects in the forms of gigantic robots and military warfare. Digging deeper, there’s the reflection on what’s going on in our real world and the dark side of our humanity. In my humble opinion, this is the best blockbuster movie for 2009.
(District 9 is the sci-fi epic classic of our era)
Review by Richard Lim Jr