Film Review: District 9 (2009)

District 9

Neill Blomkamp’s stellar directorial debut is an unpredictable blend of intelligence, emotion, and cinematic whoop-ass that defies convention and leaves you breathless. It begins like a documentary, outlining how a race of stranded aliens (the space kind) came to be ghettoized in South Africa. We follow a character named Wikus, a bumbling government agent who is tasked with herding the aliens to a new camp (the concentration kind) further away from Johannesburg. The aliens aren’t pretty, but you’ll be surprised how emotionally invested you’ll get in a couple of them — a father named Christopher, and his tiny young son, who are desperately trying to find a way back to their home world.

When Wikus subjects himself to a dangerous alien chemical, he begins a Kafka-esque transformation into one of the aliens, or “prawns” as they are called derogatorily. Sharlto Copley is excellent as Wikus, in a brave performance calling for primal rage and deep humiliation. One of the most disturbing scenes in the movie comes after the government learns that Wikus’ transformation allows him to control alien technology. When he refuses to fire an alien weapon at a live target, they wrap his deformed finger around the trigger and shock him with a cattle prod to induce a lethal muscular contraction. It’s essentially a violent rape scene, and it will haunt me forever.

After escaping, Wikus finds refuge among the prawns. He strikes a tenuous relationship with Christopher, who says he can help reverse the genetic transformation if Wikus helps him get to his mother ship. From that point forward, District 9 becomes an emotional roller coaster where you’re just praying to the movie gods that everything turns out all right for Wikus and Christopher.

The script ends boldly and provocatively, after an action-packed, effect-filled final struggle that puts most Hollywood blockbusters to complete and utter shame. Far and away my favorite film of 2009.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★½ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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