After an extra terrestrial mothership appeared above the earth 20 years earlier, a group of non-human refugees were found, possibly the last survivors of their own world. While the humans argued over what to do, the creatures were isolated - at District 9. Multi-National United (MNU), a private security company and the world's largest arms manufacturer has been contracted to oversee them. MNU'S real goal is to discover the secret to the activation of the alien's powerful weaponry that requires their DNA. When an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins converting his own DNA, he becomes the most hunted - and valuable - man in the world, perhaps the key to unlocking the secrets of the non-human technology. There is only one place for him to hide - District 9.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
They're derisorily called prawns by the humans and they have no redeeming physical features, yet they are not a naturally violent race of aliens, living in the disgusting conditions of a refugee camp on the Johannesburg outskirts, an area simply called District 9. South Africa has been unable to find a solution to these outcasts of the universe, herded together for 20 years under the shadow of the giant mothership that still hovers silently and still above the city.
In the moment of time that the Government decides to relocate the camp hundreds of kilometres away in response to public agitation, the man in charge of the field operations, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), has an accident. It's not seemingly major, just a spill of something onto his face .... But it sets of a chain reaction not only within his own body, but in the outside world. By the end of 74 hours, everything will have changed - Wikus especially.
Sharlto Copley is not your typical action movie hero; he's more an office nerd. The heroics are downplayed yet he attracts our sympathies, even when he is on the way to becoming an alien himself. This, and the way director Neill Blomkamp upends the genre in general, building emotional bridges between the audience and the ugly prawns, is quite an achievement. And perhaps an indictment of human nature's even uglier side. But there is no message or moral lurking in the belly of this story, although I daresay one or more messages could well be found, ranging from the parallels with the way human refugees around the world are demonised for political expediency, to the way corporations abandon morality when they could be making money instead. The MNU corporation actually wants to harvest Wikus for the weaponry that his newly altered DNA can utilise, and cares not how. Of course the corporation is not a 'thing' but a group of people...one of them being Wikus' father in law.
Although I'm not sure why the aliens don't use their extensive and powerful hidden cache of armoury when harassed by the MNU militia, it becomes irrelevant in the story.
Technically superb, District 9 is a feast of seamless digital work fused to live action, as it is also a smart fusion of documentary format with narrative fiction. The result is highly energetic without being frantic, and perfectly in tune with our heightened senses in a 24 hour news cycle world where major events are reported in a continuous stream. The device allows Blomkamp the freedom to establish facts quickly and with great visual scope.
With producer Peter Jackson, Blomkamp has access to Weta Digital, which is one of the world's most sought after FX production houses. He also has access to Jackson's mind; it's a terrific partnership, as is Blomkamp's long association with Copley, who carries so much of the film's weight on his shoulders. It's fresh, exciting and enormously entertaining; don't miss it.
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DISTRICT 9 (MA)
CAST: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, Elizabeth Mkandawie, John Summer, William Allen Young, Greg Melvill-Smith, Nick Blake, Vanessa Haywood, Marian Hooman, Vittorio Leonardi
PRODUCER: Peter Jackson
DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
SCRIPT: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Trent Opaloch
EDITOR: Julian Clarke
MUSIC: Clinton Shorter
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Ivey
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 13, 2009