District 9 (2009)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)

DISTRICT 9 (2009) - Neill Blomkamp

Has there ever been a film where aliens were not shown in their invading mentalities? Furthermore, has there ever been a film where the true ugly creatures are the humans, not the extraterrestrials? In his directing debut, Neill Blomkamp brings the issues of apartheid, xenophobia, and social segregation to life with his quiet sci-fi masterpiece District 9.

Filmed with a $30 million budget, District 9 begins in the style of a mockumentary, explaining that in the year 1982, an alien mothership stops directly above the city of Johannesburg in South Africa. A team of investigators enter the ship, discovering a population of sick and malnourished aliens, referred as "prawns." In response, the government built a camp right outside Johannesburg, called District 9, as a place to reside in for the unhealthy creatures. But soon enough, a great unrest occurs between the aliens and the humans, causing the camp to become heavily militarized, transforming it into a dilapidated slum. As a result, the government turns to a private military company called Multinational United (MNU), hoping to relocate the aliens to a new internment camp.

In the present day, the film follows Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), who is appointed as an MNU executive to lead the camp relocation process by serving the prawns eviction notices. While raiding every single shack in the district, Wikus comes across a mysterious canister, and accidentally sprays some onto his face. As time progresses, the fluid slowly begins to mutate Wikus into a prawn himself.

The mockumentary style in the beginning of the film is an extremely clever way to immerse us into this world, where reality fuses realistically with science fiction. With interviews and news broadcasts showing the damage prawns have done, you cannot help but feel this is all real. Thus, when Wikus' story begins, you find yourself strapped in already for the thematic journey.

The film is efficiently shot, using shaky camera as well as surveillance camera footage when needed, creating a freshly organic atmosphere for the film. The visual effects are Oscar-worthy, as you see human actors closely interact with CGI prawns as if they really exist there, and the score by Clinton Shorter is a magnificent combination of science fiction orchestra and South African native music.

Sharlto Copley, here in his acting debut, proves that he will have a very promising award-worthy career. For sure, his opening performance as Wikus is one where we are not supposed to like him. He is selfish and self-centered in what he does, and is inevitably a prick to the aliens, most notably a prawn father character called Christopher Johnson. But then, you start being afraid when Wikus' body begins to betray him, seeing his skin shed on its own, his fingernails falling off. As Wikus gets more scared, running away from the government, the film humanizes the aliens more and more, giving us an entirely new perspective on the entire picture.

As Wikus runs away from the corporation he worked for, District 9 then delivers another underlying theme of state reliance on multinational corporations as a government funded enforcement arm, addressing the possible dangers of outsourcing militaries and bureaucracies to private contractors. It is all about corruption and greed.

District 9 has the creativity and inventiveness of extraterrestrial technology, while flirting and addressing social issues and political issues in the real world today. As said before, the film addresses xenophobia the most heavily, portraying the human race being united together against the insect-like species. Throughout the film, as Wikus becomes less and less human, he becomes more and more humane, discovering the corruption of humanity, how humans give the aliens promises but do atrocious opposites. For once, you are never on the humans' side, an odd but refreshing take in an alien film.

In conclusion, District 9 is one of the best films of all time, and is one of the few films where after finishing it, I say to myself "This is why I love filmmaking, why I critique films and why I make films." With dazzling visuals, tearjerking acting, and an inventive storyline, District 9 pivots on xenophobia and social segregation, proving Neill Blomkamp's talent as a director. With the technique of false documentary, Blomkamp's masterpiece conveys its astonishing messages in the most realistic way possible, that the most disgusting and monstrous species on Earth... is us.


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