Director – Neill Blomkamp
Cast – Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
As an avid sci-fi fan, and a lover of anything having to do with aliens, I remember being so very excited the first time I got a hold of a teaser trailer for this flick. The immense need for a fresh approach to the horror/sci-fi genre was successfully done with this film as it gives us a great sci-fi experience portrayed in a very creative way, without the normal “cheese” we get from other big budget sci-fi flicks. This film defied Hollywood logic with it’s low budget(by Hollywood standards at least), use of no-name actors, and the fact that such a huge task was put in the hands of a first-time director. All of these worked well for this film, and proves that sincerity beats wads of cash any day.
District 9 follows a series of events after an extraterrestrial race is forced to dock here on Earth over South Africa. The aliens are forced to live in slum-like conditions where they soon adopt crime and civil disobedience due to their impoverished way of life(just like humans huh?). When the government decides to evict the aliens from their shacks to another holding area(basically a concentration camp), a government agent not accustomed to field-work becomes exposed to their biotechnology. The following events show the power of love & despair, as well as the boundaries some will go to for power and control.
First off, this film succeeds in it’s presentation. Almost along the lines of a documentary, you will be shown numerous clips of interviews with people who knew the main character, and other “professionals” asked to comment on the matter. I loved how most of this took place towards the beginning of the film, leaving you to think “is this even going to be a ‘movie’?” and provides even more mystery than that created by this film’s effective “Cloverfield-esque” viral marketing. As the film progresses, it turns more into a “movie”, until the last movement which comes off as an amazing blockbuster that Transformers 2 wishes it was. Hate it, love it, this is creativity and it gets my respect.
The story for the film is an interesting one, perfectly blending the film’s influences(Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Aliens, etc.) into an original story that I could not have guessed from the film’s teasers and trailers. The struggles our lead character faces throughout the film feel real, and the atmosphere and score during these scenes solidify the sorrow felt with him. This sense of realistic gloom carries over to the “Prawns”, which is a derogatory term given to the aliens that are forced to live in the slums of South Africa. Reminiscent of the racial apartheid that plagued South Africa for years, this film also comes off as a social statement as well, leaning towards the cruelty that mankind has put on those who are weak and do not have to means to protect themselves. Social commentary? George A. Romero is sure to be a fan of this film.
So since this is a sci-fi film…you must be wondering about the special effects eh? Well…I can describe them quickly for you, AMAZING! The kill scenes in this film take the cake when it comes to the special effects, but at times you will marvel in awe at the massive spacecraft hovering over Johannesburg as if it were really, REALLY there. This film really doesn’t skimp out on the gore during the kill scenes, and if any of you know about Peter Jackson(who produced this film), then you know he is a master of gore. Reference: watch his film “Dead Alive”, properly referred to as “…THE GORIEST FRIGHT FILM OF ALL TIME”.
My biggest love for this film though…is not the story, special effects, or the film itself. What I love about this film is the big “F*CK YOU!!!” it sends to Hollywood and it’s studio execs. A first-time director, with a no-name cast, and a low budget put out the best film of the year so far and one of the best sci-fi/horror films in recent years.
Director Neil Blomkamp did an amazing job with this film’s direction and atmosphere, as well as pacing it beautifully to never lose the viewer’s interest, yet put forth a great story that doesn’t require explosions and violence to keep the reader’s interest. Whatever explosions and violence that occur during this film are supplemental to the story, and only prove to show the ill-heartedness of the antagonists, and provide rejoice and triumph as the protagonists finally take a stance.
Lead actor Wikus Van De Merwe gives an extraordinary performance that is sure to rock emotions out of the film’s viewers, and makes it hard to believe that an actor with no feature film experience(he was only in one role prior to this film, as a supplemental character in the short, 6 minute film “Alive in Joburg”) can pull of such a role.
But is it really hard to believe? No, there have been many breakout stars who have performed exceedingly well in their first roles, but studio execs refuse to give them the light of day, and go with the only guarantee of making money…big name actors. With films like The Dark Knight costing over $200 million to make, how on earth is it that this film, which had a budget of only $30 million, had the best special effects seen in years? Sincerity goes a long way, farther than money will, and this film proves that point.
Overall, this is an amazing film that offers more than just the typical alien drama we get from other sci-fi flicks. This flick has a purpose, and is sure to please those with an open mind, or would like to see some of the sweetest kills and special effects known to man.
– I ranked this film #37 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(31-40) post.