Saturday, 8 December 2012

FILM: District 9 (9/10)

Why did I watch it?
Heard good things about this after its release on DVD so felt the need to jump aboard the bandwagon. Also, its about of my favourite topics.

What's it all about?
Thirty years prior to the action a gigantic spaceship stopped above Johannesburg. No-one knew why. The aliens, referred to as 'prawns', were removed from the ship and placed in impoverished immigration holding camps by the South African government and private military contractor MNU. Crime is high, the locals are angry, and the day comes where the aliens are to be relocated to another camp outside of Johannesburg. The film follows Wikus van de Merwe, an Afrikaner MNU employee, charged with leading the deportation. 

Should you watch it?
District 9 can be broken down into two halves, the situation and characters are introduced through a combination of documentary style interviews, both present and retrospective, and news reports. This approach serves first time director Neill Blomklamp well, as not only is it intriguing and different, but its a fairly cheap method (the films budget was only $30 million and it took in over seven times this at the box office). Following the introductory first half, the action switches to following Wikus as his troubles begin to increase.
Just sign here Mr Prawn

The social commentary (calling it an undertone would be to pretend it is discreet) of the film is evident and could be transferred to any group of 'outsider's in any population. The issue has been covered by many reviewers far better than I could attempt to do so I'll just leave it at that.

Blomkamp deserves credit for his unique take on the alien's arrival to Earth. So often potrayed as violent, destructive and more importantly, the dominant species, Blomkamp's aliens are food deprived, malnourished and although restless, they are successfully policed by the humans and treated as a species (or race, there goes that social commentary aspect again) with basic human rights. Consider Ridley Scott and James Cameron's Aliens being politely asked to sign a deportation order for relocation to another camp.

Keep out

The main protagonist Wikus is played by little known South African actor Sharlto Copley. Copley's performance and transformation of Wikus from a vain and smug executive to hunted, desperate and sacrificing fugitive are tremendous and he deserves the recognition for his role as actor and also producer of the short film Alive in Joburg upon which District 9 is based. I found the final act of the film, culimanting in the final scene, genuiely emotional, which considering that the previous twenty minutes had become a bit of a gunfest is credit again to Blomkamp.

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