Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9 (****1/2)

District 9. 112 mins. R. Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell. Starring Sharlto Copely, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, and William Alan Young.

District 9 is a rarity in movies today. Hugely successful at the box office upon its release, the movie flew under the radar for months, had a budget of only $30 million, and was directed by an untested 29 year-old who unsuccessfully attempted to bring Microsoft's Halo video game to the big screen. But here's the thing: District 9 offers more bang for the buck, more candy for the eye, and more food for the brain than every other studio blockbuster (save Star Trek) that's been released this summer. Part City of God, part Independence Day, District 9 is an assured feature debut for Blomkamp, and a welcome shot in the arm to the sci-fi genre. There's real content here, and it makes you think, but the most impressive thing about the movie is that it does all that without ever once failing to entertain and deliver the goods. With Peter Jackson producing, District 9 certainly knows how to kick ass when push comes to shove, and in the film's final half-hour, the action on screen has a "wow" factor of about 10. A riff on Blomkomp's South African upbringing and apartheid issues, District 9 takes a pseudo-documentary approach to its story about aliens living in shacks on the outskirts of town after their spaceship stalls over Johannesburg some 20 years ago. Called District 9, the area is policed by a government unit called MNU, and as the movie begins, MNU agent Wikus Van d Merwe (first-time actor, Sharlto Copely) has been tasked with evicting the aliens from District 9 and moving them to fenced-off camps further away from the city. When Wikus is exposed to alien substance, all hell breaks loose as he begins to change into one of the aliens and is hunted by the military and Nigerian slumlords who want to use him to operate alien weapons, which only work in the hands of the aliens. Sounds crazy? Sure - this is science fiction after all, but District 9 works because it grounds the sci-fi ideas in reality and consistently operates on a plane of believability, as if this how things would really happen. The movie approaches instant classic status, but is docked a few points for inconsistency: it drops its documentary style midway through in favor of a straight-up narrative, and then goes back to documentary mode at random times. Still, that's a minor hiccup in an otherwise thrilling moviegoing experience. Bring on District 10.



At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw it Saturday. Loved it. - Brian


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