Genre: Sci Fi / Drama
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp
Running Time: 112 min.
District 9 is the most intriguing film I have seen a good long while. Thought provoking and well crafted on all fronts I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is a plot driven work, where story is of the first priority. The cast, while well chosen, is comprised largely of unknowns so as not to distract from the experience. The protagonist, Wikus Van De Merwe, an everyman character thrust into extraordinary circumstances, provides a vehicle for the audience to see the different facets of the transformative story arc. Transforming from an outsider to an outcast plays delightfully, and tugs at the strings on our perceptions of segregation and persecution.
Set in Johannesburg South Africa (check), the story sets the alien within the marginally unfamiliar, blending these elements and softening the contrasts, which helps play towards the plausible feeling throughout. District 9 succeeds greatly in creating a lived in feel, set in the present with an alternate history, establishing an encapsulated dystopia surrounded by everyday trappings of contemporary experience.
At its core this is a story truly about human nature, rather than alien. The aliens, colloquially referred to a s Prawns, behave and emote is very human ways, especially as their circumstances trend the behavior towards all too familiar lowest common denominator of human activities. This inherent grafted humanity lends poignancy to the story, and helps to ground the plot in reality, albeit an altered one. Man’s inhumanity to man is not restricted to humans; as we see any class of perceived outsider gets the same treatment.
On the reverse of this is Wikus’s continuing humanity, which we see fracture as the story plays out. He feels the same love and connection to his wife, even once fully transformed into an alien, but loses much of the rest of his humanity once pursued once he finds himself up against the preverbal wall. Darkly reflected against his humanity is the primary Prawn in the story, “Christopher Johnson”, as he is cast as intelligent and feeling, protecting his son, mourning his abused brethren and still reaching to find his way home.
Underneath the plot and performance, this remains a science fiction film, by virtue of the “what if” question at its core and the fantastic elements at its surface. Serving this are a host of special effects, pulled off in nearly transparent fashion, serving the story rather than distracting from it.
District 9 is crafted in a manner that makes the whole experience uncomfortably plausible, and both the overtones and undercurrents of social issues and the human condition are hard to ignore once one gets to thinking about it. A solid story, well told while avoiding the common pitfalls of standard fare, this film set the bar high indeed.