District 9 reviews

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Postby Damien » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:52 am

Sabin wrote:
And Sharlto Copley is wonderful in the lead, seamlessly transforming from geek to outraged macho hero.

I think this is what did it for me. Copley is fantastic.

I does not work as any sort of satire and the middle third or so is replete with some leaps in logic that just did not work for me, but the finale actually very much did. The image of his body armor all-but shutting down was strangely affecting. It's action done very well so I didn't mind.

The final scene is very affecting, as well.
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Postby Sabin » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:00 pm

And Sharlto Copley is wonderful in the lead, seamlessly transforming from geek to outraged macho hero.

I think this is what did it for me. Copley is fantastic.

I does not work as any sort of satire and the middle third or so is replete with some leaps in logic that just did not work for me, but the finale actually very much did. The image of his body armor all-but shutting down was strangely affecting. It's action done very well so I didn't mind.
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Postby Damien » Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:48 pm

Watched it last night and my response was similar to the other folks who posted here. The first half of the picture is pretty terrific, highly unusual both in its narrative and its form (talking heads giving an account of events that transpired), and Blomkamp and his technical team memorably create a world where dread and despair are taken for granted and nonchalantly ignored by those not affected by it. The aliens are pretty cool, too. But then there's the second half devolving into standard action film stuff, and that’s a real disappointment. There are social/poltical metaphors all over the place, and if they’re overly obvious, at least an attempt was there to be something more than mindless escapism. And Sharlto Copley is wonderful in the lead, seamlessly transforming from geek to outraged macho hero.

6/10
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Postby Zahveed » Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:04 pm

In response to BJ, this probably has a better chance of getting nominated for Best Picture than Avatar does at this point. D9 is already a showbiz success story whereas Avatar has the potential for being a huge disappointment because of the large amount of buzz and hype surrounding it.
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Postby The Original BJ » Fri Aug 21, 2009 4:27 pm

My take is pretty much in line with Sabin and Mister Tee's: this is definitely a good movie, and the kind of summer movie I wish we had a lot more of. The film's got ideas, it's pretty gripping, the lead actor is a quite compelling screen presence, and above all, the visual effects are pretty terrific. The aliens and the spaceship look almost frighteningly real, and you really get the feeling that, were this to actually happen, it would probably look a lot more like this film than most alien invasion movies.

Still, I think a lot of critics have been afflicted with what you might call Dark Knight syndrome with respect to this film. It's more exciting, intelligent, and original than most summer movies, but I'm hesitant to put it on par with more serious efforts that seem to be operating on different levels entirely. (For me, it's not remotely a patch on this summer's Hurt Locker, though I know that film has disappointed some around here.) I think, ultimately, the film's ideas don't really coalesce into a coherent theme, and we're left with a finale that's mostly action sequences -- exciting action sequences, I should say, but not anything that transcends good action movie pyrotechnics. (The film I thought of immediately afterwards was Dark City, another cooler-than-average sci-fi flick that lost track of its ideas en route to an action-packed finale.)

I'm glad I didn't know the first act twist going in -- I was genuinely shocked at the reveal and thought it was a clever way of getting at an idea that can be tough to articulate in films about oppression: isn't it luck that dictates who is fated to be born into a powerful majority group? Don't oppressors always take this for granted?

And the media-concocted story about our hero's sex acts was genuinely perceptive -- how often have society's ills been blamed on exaggerations of sexual deviancy?

One question I'm surprised I haven't seen asked more often in the wake of last weekend's box office and critical success...couldn't THIS be a possible Best Picture contender? True, the sci-fi element doesn't make it the most obvious player, but the out-of-nowhere success element seems a pretty big deal to me. Could it get a Sixth Sense-style nomination, especially in an expanded field? Or will its popularity be limited to recognition in the techs?

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Postby Mister Tee » Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:43 pm

This movie starts out like a house afire, and perked me up into thinking I was going to see something fully fresh. The allegory is so in-your-face -- a story of ghettoization set in Johannesburg! -- that it almost transcends the very idea of allegory or satire. There's so much movement, so many angles in the first half hour that I was abuzz with pleasure.

And then it became, essentially, a Bruce Willis movie -- albeit one with a geeky hero. The plot developments once our hero got contaminated were all too predictable (they'd clearly have to break into MNU -- though thank god they did it quickly -- and the Nigerian ganglord couldn't have spelled out his return more emphatically); and the tropes of the American action movie (the still-trusting wife, the nasty bad-ass pursuer who survives almost to the end) were all present and accounted for. I agree with Sabin on several matters: that even with all that, it's an above-average American action movie; that it shows Michael Bay what actual action ought to be (the robot suit sequence is almost an up-yours to Transformers); and that the finale is fairly solid. So, I'm not saying the movie's bad, as these things go. It just doesn't measure up to what I'd imagined was in store after the socko beginning.

Oh, and the image of that spacecraft hovering over the city the whole time was extremely cool.

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Postby Sabin » Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:52 pm

Well, now I totally understand why Armond White hates it. As a satire, District 9 fails if only because the only thing it can satire is inherently flawed. Alien Apartheid doesn't work because it simplifies the conflict in South Africa to a dangerous degree. That doesn't affect how fantastic the set-up is or how affecting Wikus's Hero's Journey actually becomes. The film (d)evolves into a Buddy Movie and hits some logistical hurdles along the way but rebounds very successfully in the third act. I was surprised at how moving I found it. Credit Sharlto Copley for allowing Wikus to be portrayed as such a douchey cog from the on-set. The peril of giving David Brent too much power...

I have my reservations that the satire is pretty toothless, that hand-picking Johannesburg for exotic novelty milieu is problematic, that much of the Buddy Movie is a step-down, but even when it faltered I was knocked for a loop. The conventional movie that it becomes in the end is better than most this summer, succeeding at being entirely coherent (a slap in the fact to Michael Bay that *this* is what a Transformers movie can be) and deriving great strength from character. District 9 is a blender movie but a canny, refreshing one. First time director Neill Blomkamp is a remixer but a deft one, and one that finds his footing when almost too much is happening at the same time, such that nagging questions (and I have maybe thirty) become fairly irrelevant. It's bad-ass.
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Postby Zahveed » Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:24 pm

This film came out of nowhere. Every other Summer picture has been hyped nearly a year prior, but I don't think this has received very much attention until recently. I will be checking this out. The premise seems original and the effects look amazing in spite of its reportedly small budget.
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Postby Precious Doll » Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:24 am

I hadn't planned to see this having seen the trailer a number of times over the last couple of months. I was not impressed with either of two different trailers I have seen.

However, given the strength of the reviews I do intend to see this now.




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Postby The Original BJ » Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:53 pm

I saw the trailer for this the other day, and I think it looks terrific. I am really looking forward to this one.

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Postby MovieWes » Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:29 pm

From Cinemablend...

District 9 - Review

Length: 111 min
Rated: R
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Release Date: 2009-08-14


Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Mandla Gaduka, William Allen Young, Vanessa Haywood, Kenneth Nkosi, Devlin Brown


Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Produced by Peter Jackson
Written by Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell

Reviewed by Katey Rich : 2009-07-30 19:06:20

**** out of *****

For the second time this summer, a young, brand-new director has emerged from out of nowhere to present a vision of where sci-fi can go from here. It first happened with Moon, the elegant and tightly sealed thinkpiece from Duncan Jones that operated far more with the head than with the heart. Now, from the complete opposite side, comes District 9, Neill Blomkamp's visceral and thumping debut that, even if it doesn't have quite all its ideas in order, presents a fascinating and effective vision of the future, and of humanity itself.

Taking an obvious metaphor for apartheid as a mere jumping-off point, District 9 is set in Blomkamp's hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa, where 20 years earlier a spaceship appeared above the city and mysteriously stopped. Humans "rescued" the starving alien creatures inside it and rounded them up in an area called District 9, which quickly morphed into a slum where Nigerian gangsters prey off the aliens, given the derogatory but accurate nickname "prawns." The time has finally come for the government agency/weapons manufacturer MNU to relocate District 9 further from the city, and put in charge of the operation is bureaucratic dweeb Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a guy who married the boss's daughter and has spent the rest of his life happily pushing pencils in a larger-than-average cubicle.

As he serves eviction notices to the prawns who live in the assorted shacks, Wikus takes delight in firebombing alien eggs and wielding his authority like a particularly obnoxious weapon. But when he comes afoul of a mysterious substance cooked up by an alien named, for some reason, Christopher Johnson, Wikus almost immediately begins a transformation into the world's first human-alien hybrid. After the government initially tries to slice him up for research and weapons development, Wikus escapes and takes refuge in the only hiding place he has left: District 9.

What follows is a fairly traditional search-and-rescue action movie plot, as Wikus and Christopher team up to recover the substance that transformed Wikus to begin with, for reasons better left discovered on your own. With a vivid imagination and a taste for gore, Blomkamp dreams up a whole arsenal of alien weapons that fry, blast and dismember human beings in all kinds of awesome ways. The film uses faux-documentary footage, news reports and security cameras combined with traditional photography to create its own kind of realism, giving the viewer the distinct feeling they are on the lam right next to Wikus. Blomkamp's handheld style is effective and never jerky; you always know where you are in the scene, which is especially critical when seeing more than one alien creature that looks essentially the same as the next one.

Created entirely out of CGI, the aliens are a true marvel, as Christopher and his little son are as real a character as E.T. or Wikus himself. It's a shame, then, that as we get to know the aliens and see subtitles for their language, that we don't learn more about them. Why did they show up here? Just how smart are they? What's their plan for getting back? It all gets shoved to the foreground in favor of Wikus' admittedly more interesting story, while a more experienced director might have been able to handle both stories. It technically doesn't matter that District 9 was so cheap, about $30 million, but it indicates an economy of both filmmaking and storytelling that, more than anything, makes Blomkamp a filmmaker worth watching. Even when it doesn't have all its ideas or the logic of its world in place, the narrative of Wikus' transformation from government stooge to freedom fighter is flawless. It helps that Copley turns in a stunning debut performance, ferocious and feral and constantly wonderful to watch.

District 9 isn't exactly sci-fi for the ages-- it's too unclear on what it has to say, and its story ranges too far within the meticulously created world without providing any real insight. But it's impressive not just as a debut, but as a new example of how to use original sci-fi as a mirror to our own world, and without $200 million budgets and space battles or even hobbits. Peter Jackson took the money he made making a faithful and beautiful adaptation, and has used it to fund something truly, remarkably original.
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Postby MovieWes » Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:06 pm

District 9 A-

By Emanuel Levy


“District 9,” an innovative and exciting sci-fi-thriller, set against the apartheid struggle in South Africa, announces the arrival an extremely gifted filmmaker, Neill Blomkamp, a young, white South African writer-director who makes a stunning feature debut after making some shorts.

Inventvely combining the thematic conventions of various genres and the stratgeic approaches of documentary, fiction, and even mockumentary, “District 9” is an original work about political refugees that works on a number of levels, the particular and historical, as well as the more metaphoric or allegorical.

“District 9,” which received a rapturous reception at Comic-Con last month, where it world premiered, will be released by Sony nationwide August 14, 2009.

With strong critical support and word-of-mouth (there's already a buzz due to the excellent trailer and poster) and Sony's savvy marketing campaign, "District 9," easily one of the best features of this long, boring summer, could become a sleeper, appealing to younger and older demographics due to the effective blend of a thrilling sci-fi with strong political overtones. With some luck, it could become a cult (midnight) movie.

In the first reel, it’s established that 20 years ago, a million of aliens made contact with Earth, when a space ship landed in downtown Johannesburg. Predictably, the humans expected an hostile attack, or advances in technology, but neither event ever happened. Instead, the aliens turned out to be refugees from their own home, now set up in a makeshift place in South Africa’s District 9, while the world’s more powerful nations deliberate over their fate.

However, endurance and patience have their limits, too. And so, the control over the aliens is contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens’ welfare. MNU is promised huge profits if they can put to practice the aliens’ powerful weaponry. The challenge, however, is not as easy as it sounds, and so far, all the efforts have failed, which means activation of the weaponry still requires alien DNA.

Tensions rise between the aliens and the humans, who find themselves in a peculiar co-existence, which brings the worst in them, reaching a boiling point when MNU field agents begin evicting the non-humans from District 9 to a new camp. Turning point occurs, when the protagonist, MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe (well played by Sharlto Copley) contracts an alien virus that begins changing his DNA.

In a manner recalling many of Hitchcock’s heroes, Wikus quickly becomes a hunted (and haunted) man who possesses invaluable knowledge, holding the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. An ambiguous screen hero, the ostracized and friendless Wikus realizes that the only place left for him to hide is District 9.

Soon, the contaminated Wikus is chased by various forces of "order and disorder," by the MNU as well as by a group of Nigerian criminals and witch doctors. With opportunities limited, he takes refuge with an intelligent creature named Christopher Johnson (voiced by Jason Cope), and his young kid, Little CJ. (Incidentally, the writers rather shrewdly give all the aliens human names, imagining the re-naming that would be done when admitting the aliens to our planet, a device that makes them individually recognizable). Establishing the kind of surrogate family unit that would make Spielberg proud, the trio must find ways to reverse Wikus' alien metamorphosis and ultimately assist the refugees return to their planet.

Blomkamp has spent his youth under the oppressive system of apartheid, which dominated South Africa for over three decades, ending in 1994. As a result, he informs the film with “inside” historical details and political background that enrich his text and subtext. The movie also benefits immensely from the sponsorship and assistance of his producer, the visionary director Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”), for whom Blomkamp serves as assistant, absorbing some of the visual and special effects Jackson is known for.

It's a testament to Blomkamp's skillful approach that he blends successfully a sci-fi creatures tale that's scary (but not too gory by the the genre's current standards) with a satirical docu-mockumentary, imbued with sufficient dark humor to balance the tone of the film into something more accessible and enjoyable than it could have been in the hands of another director.

The genesis of “District 9," which is penned by Blomkamp and his writing partner Terri Tatchell, goes back to a short, low-budget mockumentary, “Alive in Jo’burg,” which he had shot in a Johannesburg shantytown. In this short, Blomkamp introduced intergalactic aliens to the cultural mix of Johannesburg, one of Africa’s most dynamic cities.

Refreshingly, it’s hard to tell from the look and shape of "District 9" Blomkamp’s background (he cut his teeth as a visual effects artist and director of music videos and commercials). In this most impressive debut, he has deftly created a film with an original vision and unique storytelling, drawing inspiration from classic sci-fi films of the 1950s as well as the Johannesburg of his youth (Blomkamp was born and raised there before relocating to Canada). “District 9” breaks ground, showcasing an exciting new director with penchant for subtle mise-en-scene, brisk pacing, and suspense-building without too much manipulation.


Credits

Peter Jackson presents in association with TriStar Pictures and Block/Hanson a Wingnut Films Production.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp.

Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell.

Produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham.

Co-Producer: Philippa Boyens.

Executive Producers: Bill Block and Ken Kamins.

Co-Executive Producers: Paul Hanson and Elliot Ferwerda.

Director of Photography: Trent Opaloch.

Production Designer: Philip Ivey.

Editor: Julian Clarke.

Music: Clinton Shorter; music supervisor, Michelle Belcher.
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)

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Postby MovieWes » Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:55 pm

And now Variety's review, also a rave. Between this and The Lovely Bones, this could be Peter Jackson's biggest year since 2003.

District 9
(New Zealand)
By JUSTIN CHANG

A Sony Pictures Entertainment (in North America) release of a Peter Jackson presentation in association with TriStar Pictures and Block/Hanson of a WingNut Films (New Zealand) production. (International sales: QED Intl., Los Angeles.) Produced by Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham. Executive producers, Bill Block, Ken Kamins. Co-producer, Philippa Boyens. Co-executive producers, Paul Hanson, Elliot Ferwerda. Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Screenplay, Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell.

With: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, Louis Minnaar, William Allen Young.
(English, Nyanja dialogue)
Upon the ashes of his aborted "Halo" vidgame adaptation, producer Peter Jackson has erected "District 9," an enjoyably disgusting sci-fier set in and around a rubble-strewn war zone where extraterrestrial refugees have taken up indefinite residence. Better conceived and executed than one might expect from a low-budget rebound project, this grossly engrossing speculative fiction bears Jackson's blood-splattered fingerprints but also heralds first-time feature director Neill Blomkamp as a nimble talent to watch. A viral campaign reminiscent of the more gimmicky "Cloverfield" should draw hefty hordes initially, but positive notices and buzz will be required to sustain a B.O. invasion.
Shot and set in Blomkamp's native South Africa, "District 9" imagines a present-day scenario in which humans and aliens are forced into an uneasy co-existence and, predictably, bring out the violent worst in each other. As scripted by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, the result reps a remarkably cohesive hybrid of creature feature and satirical mockumentary that elaborates on the helmer's 2005 short "Alive in Jo'burg," borrows plot points from 1988's "Alien Nation" and takes its emotional cues from "E.T."

The film's faux-verite visual style, however, is very much a thing of the present, blending handheld HD camerawork with ersatz news coverage (complete with CNN-style text scrolls) and talking heads, plus actual archival footage from local news agencies, so as to suggest an urgent dispatch from the front lines of an interspecies war.

The introductory 15 minutes are swiftly paced, making modest demands on the viewer to keep up with the jiggly aesthetic and the particulars of the premise: Twenty years ago, an enormous spaceship came to rest over Johannesburg, now a sun-scorched urban wasteland. Since then, the ship's inhabitants, referred to as "prawns" -- four-legged insectoid beings that walk upright, secrete black goo and speak in subtitled grunts and gurgles -- have been moved into the titular ghetto and placed under the control of Multi-National United, a private corporation bent on cracking the secrets of the aliens' ultra-powerful weapons.

Into the fray strides Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), an annoyingly chipper, boastful MNU operative overseeing the transfer of aliens to the more remote District 10. Blithely navigating cameramen through the creatures' filthy shack homes, Wikus accidentally comes into contact with an icky substance that, within hours, begins altering his DNA.

In the script's most ingenious gambit, the contaminated Wikus is suddenly coveted by MNU, as well as by a gang of Nigerian thugs and witch doctors who won't win the filmmakers any prizes for ethnic sensitivity. Forced into hiding, Wikus teams up with an intelligent, green-skinned prawn, Christopher Johnson (voiced by Jason Cope), and his kid, Little CJ, who's kinda cute in a hideous sort of way; together, they seek a way to reverse Wikus' alien metamorphosis and help the refugees return to their planet.

Rather than plunge the viewer immediately into unrelieved carnage and chaos, the film opens on a note of anxious uncertainty and tense humor as it probes the varying degrees of hostility in human-prawn relations. Though compelling throughout, "District 9" never becomes outright terrifying, largely because Blomkamp is less interested in exploiting his aliens for cheap scares than in holding up a mirror to our own bloodthirsty, xenophobic species.

That said, he doesn't skimp on the viscera; it's hard to watch the grisly climactic battle, with its parade of high-tech weaponry and exploding body parts, and not think of the horror cheapies Jackson was making pre-"Lord of the Rings." The pic does take a sentimental turn toward the end, with an excess of alien reaction shots that feel at odds with the much more authentic passion Blomkamp lovingly invests in his grotesque setpieces.

Copley makes the most of the only substantial human role -- and not an especially likable one at that -- with a twitchy, blustery, shifty-eyed performance of ferretlike intensity. Dropping F-bombs in Afrikaans-accented English, he ably conveys not only Wikus' physical transformation but also his mental deterioration and subsequent moral awakening; it's to the pic's credit that when Wikus is shown on the battlefield, his half-mutated body covered with festering wounds and alien protrusions, he has never seemed more profoundly human.

Lensed primarily on the Red-One camera, the film looks and sounds terrific, its seeming improvisation masking the obviously exhaustive planning required in all departments. The interactions between the aliens (a combo of f/x and old-fashioned prosthetics) and the humans are handled as confidently as anything in the "Transformers" movies and are arguably more impressive for d.p. Trent Opaloch's off-the-cuff shooting style. Clinton Shorter's percussive score is effective but at times over-reliant on the loud wailing/crooning that has become a too-easy signifier of Africa and other foreign locales.

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Trent Opaloch; editor, Julian Clarke; music, Clinton Shorter; music supervisor, Michelle Belcher; production designer, Philip Ivey; art directors, Emilia Weavind CQ, Mike Berg; lead set decorator, Guy Potgieter; costume designer, Diana Cilliers; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Ken Saville, Lebo Mawasha, Basiami Segola; supervising sound editors, Brent Burge, Chris Ward; sound designer, Dave Whitehead; re-recording mixers, Michael Hedges, Gilbert Lake; visual effects supervisors, Dan Kaufman, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken, Trevor Adams, Patti Gannon; visual effects, Image Engine, the Embassy Visual Effects, Weta Digital, Zoic Studios; weapons, creatures and makeup effects, Weta Workshop; stunt coordinator, Grant Hulley; line producer, Trishia Downie; assistant director, Paul Grinder; casting, Denton Douglas. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Los Angeles, July 27, 2009. (In Comic-Con, San Diego.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 111 MIN.




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Postby MovieWes » Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:44 pm

District 9 -- Film Review
By Kirk Honeycutt, July 28, 2009 10:00 ET

Bottom Line: A genuinely original science fiction film that grabs you immediately, not letting go until the final shot.

Combining the very best of the postwar sci-fi movies with their trenchant political undertones and pulse-pounding dynamism and contemporary movie technology that can blend aliens seamlessly into a realistic human world of urban and moral decay, "District 9" flirts with greatness. This science fiction film from South African-born Canadian Neill Blomkamp, a protege of Peter Jackson, who produced the film, stumbles in a few crucial areas but even so it's a helluva movie. No true fan of science fiction -- or, for that matter, cinema -- can help but thrill to the action, high stakes and suspense built around a very original chase movie.

Having scored a direct hit with audiences last week at Comic-Con, "District 9" is primed for solid business in all markets when it rolls out domestically in August and globally from August through October.

By choosing to film in the city of his youth, Johannesburg, Blomkamp situates his story in a very real place off the beaten path for science fiction. The accents, townships, barbed-wire enclosures and harsh, dusty environment all give "District 9" a gritty sense of place. Why shouldn't an alien spaceship land some place other than the U.S.?

In fact, the film's alien ship arrived over the sky of Jo'burg 20 years before the movie begins. Instead of Spielberg aliens, these are exhausted refugees whose ship literally ran out of gas. The stalled mother ship still hovers over the cityscape, its bedraggled occupants long ago removed from its foul compartments into makeshift camps separated from the human population.

These creatures are deliberately made to appear disgusting: Located somewhere between insects and crustaceans on the evolutionary scale, the aliens have hard shell areas, extremely thin waists, sinewy joints and surprising strength. Humans, in their disgust, call them "prawns" because they are bottom-feeding scavengers who root around for food, especially cat food!

(Make what you will of a humanoid species segregated into refugee camps in South Africa, a place still coping with the after-effects of the apartheid system. The film makes no comment, nor does it need to.)

What the aliens apparently lack is a dark liquid that powers not only their ship but sophisticated weaponry. The humans would love to control those weapons, but activation requires alien DNA. That doesn't prevent a Nigerian underworld boss, Obesandjo (Eugene Khumbanyiwa), from buying up the illegal alien weapons with cat food.

Multinational United (MNU), a private company contracted to control the growing alien population, decides to relocate them from their homes in District 9 to a rural concentration camp. Through nepotism, the task of this mass removal is handed to MNU field operative Wikus (Sharlto Copley), a by-the-book wimp in a vast bureaucracy.

While delivering eviction notices, he discovers and tries to clear an illegal lab run by alien Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope). (You've got to like the idea that condescending Earthlings have given human names to this subjugated species.) In doing so, Wikus unwittingly gets infected with the alien virus that rapidly changes his DNA. Within hours, he becomes violently ill and grows an alien claw for a hand.

You guessed it. His claw can now operate alien weaponry. Instantly, he is "the most valuable business artifact on Earth." Somehow this means MNU scientists want to harvest his organs. Wilkus escapes, and the chase is on. Hot on his heels is MNU's chief enforcer and the movie's chief villain, Koobus (David James).

The fugitive hides in the only place no one will look: District 9. There he is forced into an uneasy alliance with Christopher and his young son. Seems that virus he came in contact with is the liquid Johnson has been distilling for the past two decades to power the mother ship back home.

The story, written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, comes at you via different media components: Some is raw black-and-white surveillance footage; an MNU corporate video delivers interviews with staffers and other participants, including Wikus; real footage from news agencies provides crowd scenes; finally, cinematographer Trent Opaloch's use of everything from handheld to mini-cameras to shoot much of the action as if it were happening beyond his control, a thing caught on the run.

What the film runs away from though is well-rounded characters. Wikus stands alone as the only fully developed character, a human who has little choice but to become a traitor to his own species. Everyone else leaves a fleeting impression, and the film's villains are too cartoonish. When the decision is made to harvest Wikus' organs -- by his own father-in-law, no less -- there isn't even a hint of a moral dilemma.

Then too the whole point of the chase is vaguely defined. The Nigerian gangster wants to cut off Wikus' arm to eat it! The MNU scientists want to kill Wikus. This makes little sense: Shouldn't Wikus -- the only being who can operate alien weapons -- be of greater value alive than dead? What do the scientists believe they can extract from his organs?

Maybe no one thinks straight in the blur of events. Most of the action takes place over 74 hours. Blomkamp catches its frantic activity with all the raw authenticity of a documentary, egged on by the rhythmic drive of Clinton Shorter's magnificent score.

"District 9" is smart, savvy filmmaking of the highest order.

Opens: Friday, Aug. 14 (TriStar)
Production: TriStar Pictures, QED International, Block/Hanson, Wingnut Films
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Vanessa Haywood, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Screenwriters: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Producers: Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham
Executive producers: Ken Kamins, Bill Block, Paul Hanson
Director of photography: Trent Opaloch
Production designer: Philip Ivey
Music: Clinton Shorter
Costume designer: Diana Cilliers
Editor: Julian Clarke
Rated R, 112 minutes




Edited By MovieWes on 1249616714
"Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution." -- Alec Guinness (Lawrence of Arabia)


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