Wednesday, August 19, 2009

District 9 (2009)

Every once in awhile a movie comes from left field to deliver an experience rather than an entertainment. District 9 is one such film. Shot primarily in documentary style, complete with sea sickening jerky camera motion for almost its entire duration. What we are presented with though, is a tight, tense and graphic political commentary on immigration, capitalism and racism, hidden beneath the Vail of a science fiction movie.

In the not too distant future an alien mothership parks itself over Johannesburg, its contents are revealed as a race of aliens that appear to be a cross between a shellfish and a cockroach (and bear a remarkable similarity to the alien from Men in Black). They are starving to death and in need of assistance, something which is granted to them in the short term, by way of an immigration camp known as District 9. The film picks up a number of years after their arrival when it is decided that the "prawns" should be moved a further 200km away to another camp.

During this attempted eviction the leader of the group assigned to this immense task (there are over 1.5 million aliens) , comes into contact with an alien substance that sets off a remodeling of his DNA. Of course this makes him a most lucrative asset to his employers as all alien technology is genetically based and by having a human hybrid, the technology may well be within their reach.

The film makes no assumptions about what it portrays, it simply lays it all out in front of you and allows you to witness everything for yourself. This makes a refreshing change from most science fiction films that are very set in their ways. It is also violent, some may say needlessly so, but I think far worse happens in real life, and very much so in stories about apartheid (of which in all honesty this is one), but sadly towards the end of the film the violence almost appears to be used as comic relief which distracts from its initial shock and impact.

My only real criticism though is for the cinematography. Whilst I appreciate that hand held camera operation adds to the realism and "you're there" feel, I think the film could have benefited greatly from at least a few locked off shots that were not relevant to its documentary styling. (I know at least 1 patron at my screening left due to illness)

District 9 is certainly a refreshing change and a welcome addition to the ranks of great science fiction film making and I hope that it will be seen by a wide and just as appreciative audience!

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