District 9 (2009)
A disheartening, realistic, and utterly original take on humanity’s first encounter with an extraterrestrial species. “District 9” is riveting cinema at its finest and packs quite the emotional wallop. Combining fast-paced action, morality, and a brilliant socio-political influence. This sci-fi drama stings, lingers, and is by no means easy to watch. It is an endless serenade of stunning visuals and superb performances, which brilliantly compliments the endearing story at its core. It is the first full-length feature directed by up-and-comer Neill Blomkamp and is also the cinematic debut for lead actor Sharlto Copley. Both of whom do an absolutely superlative job in their respective roles. While it may not have the traditional large-scale destruction or typical villainous twist. “District 9” is gut-wrenching, cosmically astounding, and incredibly satisfying.
An alien mothership floats gently above Johannesburg in South Africa. An investigation team enters the ship and discovers a population of sick and malnourished extraterrestrials, soon refereed to as Prawns. This species is confined to District 9 which is a government camp just outside of the city. Not long after, the city grows uneasy with their new neighbours and protests are not far behind. Eventually, the South African government decides to move the Prawns to a new internment camp using the MNU (Multinational United). However, during the routine transfer, things slowly begin to go awry.
Although “Avatar” may have demolished “District 9” at the box office, predictably. In the long run, the shadow James Cameron’s epic cast over Blomkamp’s modestly-budgeted sci-fi experiment was more of a high-priced mirage. Granted, Cameron’s CGI is striking, atmospheric, and haunting. That being said, for the price, Blomkamp’s achievement is much more impressive, essentially a cinematic stroke of genius. Throw in a more compelling, plausible story, thoroughly outstanding performances, and action sequences that get the viewers heart-racing viewing after viewing. Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” is entirely more entertaining and a much more diverse and rewarding film experience. Which deservedly earns it staying power that will long outlive “Avatar’s” temporarily topnotch graphics. By no means am I discrediting Cameron as a filmmaker, I respect, appreciate, and enjoy all of his films. However, simply put, Blomkamp’s work here is truly mesmerizing and faultless.
What utterly sets Blomkamp’s “District 9” apart from the bottomless cesspool of haphazard, drivel sci-fi flicks that do nothing but dilute the genre to a point of irretrievable inaneness is its ability to strike at the viewers jugular. There are many points in which deplorable, inhuman behaviour and acts really make the audience cringe. Yet, Blomkamp is able to simultaneously retain the viewers attention with pure intentions, awe, and merciful innocence. It’s as serious and dark as it is playful and bright. Blomkamp is able to subject his audience to both sides of the coin, making it an unprecedented movie experience. And for this, Blomkamp was rewarded. Garnering 4 Oscar nominations on a mere 30 million dollar budget, compared to Avatar’s 237 million (roughly). “District 9” is truly a triumph and all comparisons aside, is a prime example of what cinema should be: imaginative, emotive , smart, and visually stellar.
Not to be overlooked in this modern day masterpiece is the performances of its relatively unknown cast, especially Sharlto Copley. While “District 9” is thoroughly appealing to all the cinematic senses and it does owe the majority of its success to creator Neill Blomkamp. Who, by the way, does a magnificent job with control of the camera for a first timer. The cast of this miraculous sci-fi drama does deserve a significant portion of recognition as is it what completes the story and brings it to life.
Amongst the deserving recipients are the scientists, tv crews, etc… In the faux-documentary aspect of the film, they do a marvellous job authentically creating the hype, fear, and human aspect of the invasion. Not to be left out are the government officials, war criminals, and supporting cast members to the main protagonist. Although occasionally portrayed as heartless, conceded, and villainous, these cast members do convey what we hope doesn’t happen behind closed doors. Nonetheless, no matter how evil, they do a lovely job making the viewer hate them. Finally, Sharlto Copley, who is flawless in the lead role, should earn the most kudos. Never have I witnessed a first-time performer steal the show as Copely did completely throughout “District 9.” If sci-fi thrillers aren’t you’re preference, at least view this film simply for Copely’s performance.
Original, captivating, and occasionally disturbing. Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9” will hopefully kick-start the genre and continue to be irrefutable prof that you don’t need a big budget to make an instant classic.
District 9: 9 out of 10.