Friday, 28 August 2009

District 9

A fascinating delight ...

After over 20 years of keeping a mysterious alien race, referred to as Prawns, in check in an area known as District 9 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is given the job of relocating the aliens away from the city so as to ensure that they pose no threat to the citizens of Johannesburg. But during a raid on one of the alien's shack, Wikus comes into contact with a substance that causes him to become the number one person of interest throughout the world.

District 9 is a remake of sorts of a short film from 2005 known as Alive in Joburg, and is filmed in two manners; the traditional film-making process and a documentary approach. The latter is mostly used for the first arc of the films narrative. It combines interviews and news reports, with documentary segments relating to Wikus and the relocation work he will be doing with the aliens. This film perspective is masterfully controlled by Neill Blomkamp and the integration of, and eventual change to, a more formalized camera work seems effortless and natural. This also provides the narrative with some added depth: instead of a linear exposition of Wikus and his reassessment of the whole situation, the audience is provided with history prior to the events taking place, even recalling vital information as to why the aliens are informally referred to as 'Prawns'. However the greatest strength of the narrative is how it parallels Apartheid. While the events in District 9 could relate to events such as the Holocaust, it is quite obvious that Apartheid is the core starting point of interest. This even goes as far as replicating the xenophobia which is strife within South Africa. For instance, replacing the African majority being subjugated against, are the technologically superior aliens. And even though the film is science-fiction, great strides have been taken to make the material as real as possible. These include the poor living conditions; an almost picture perfect representation of shacks through South Africa; and even finer details such as the African SWAT member calling Wikus by the term 'boss'. These are not just randomized stereotypes, but rather real life occurrences of South African living. This combined with the well structured story results in an entertaining and engaging narrative. However there are some points of interest which seem to get very little attention and any audience without an understanding of Apartheid might be feel something is amiss. For instance, the aliens who are clearly superior to humans seem to show little resistance to the poor conditions they are forced to live with. This may appear as a plot-hole, but essentially is only mimics how the White apartheid government were able to exert control over every other racial group, even when they were outnumbered nearly ten-to-one by the African population.

Continuing the believability of the South African context is the actors department, most notably Sharlto Copley who uses an incredibly authentic Afrikaans accent. Wikus is clearly a second language English speaker and Sharlto replicates this well, combining his characters need to speak English with instances of resorting to Afrikaans when swearing. Sharlto is only a first time actor in District 9, which is incredible to note considering how believable his acting is. Wikus goes from being a jerk to desperately fearful for his own life because of how the odds change against him. Regardless of how Wikus develops, Sharlto conveys his character with great realism. The remaining cast are all essentially secondary, and while they perform good jobs of keeping the level of acting high, they do at times falter a bit, but thankfully very rarely.

There is no nudity and sexual activities are only talked about and on a rare basis. Language is strong and consistent with a variety of expletives being used with the F-word uttered at least around 70 - 90 times. Most of these are spoken by Wikus and in Afrikaans, but considering how the F-word sounds similar in both Afrikaans and English, it is not difficult to know what is being said. The language is contextually fit though there is the odd scene where it does feel a bit too much or unnecessary. The intensity of violence matches that of the language with some fairly graphic scenes. Granted many of the deaths happen at a very quick pace but people are essentially vaporized into bloody matter or hacked apart, and this does not even account for the many instance of gunfights and psychosocial cruelty which takes place. Unlike the language at times, the violence is very fitting for contextual purposes in order to emphasis the brutality that existed during Apartheid and even in current day South Africa. South Africa is a violent country, and Neill Blomkamp does not shy away from this.

Both cinematography and the CGI are stunning. Neill Blomkamp is slightly experimental at times, such as filming from just above the barrel of a gun. He never does so frequently, but they surprisingly work. Another factor which is nicely executed are the action sequences which are viewable enough for the action to appreciated, but also slightly frantic to heighten the atmosphere. Accompanying this is some stellar CGI which blends into reality very well: the alien mother ship is the best example as it appears so natural while hovering over Johannesburg.

District 9 is being heralded as one of the best science fiction films to ever be showcased and its not difficult to understand why: it has a mature and exciting narrative, even if unclear at times, which brings about enough material to further the created universe in many directions. With a brilliant example of acting by Sharlto Copley, fascinating cinematography from Neill Blomkamp, high quality CGI, and engaging violence, District 9 is one of the most exciting films of recent years with only a few hitches. And as for this year, it easily relegates other recent blockbusters to the levels of mediocrity they deserve.


Screen date: 28 August 2009
Release date: 28 August 2009


Farzan said...

Great review CruizD, I too loved this film. I gave it a B+ in my review and I'm really happy that the film is doing great at the box office. Its definitely one of the freshest films I have recently seen. Blomkamp spent alot of time on this and I'm just happy to see him finally being recognized by the movie industry.

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movie downloads said...

I do feels the same for this movie. This movie has also performed very well at the box office too. Even I watched it twice in theater.