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From producer Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and director Neill Blomkamp comes a startlingly original sciencefiction thriller that "soars on the imagination of its creators" (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). With stunning special effects and gritty realism, the film plunges us into a world where the aliens have landed... only to be exiled to a slum on the fringes of Johannesburg. Now, one lone human discovers the mysterious secret of the extraterrestrial weapon technology. Hunted and hounded through the bizarre back alleys of an alien shantytown, he will discover what it means to be the ultimate outsider on your own planet.
A provocative science fiction drama, District 9 boasts an original story that gets a little lost in blow-'em-up mayhem. Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, District 9 begins as a mock documentary about the imminent eviction of extraterrestrials from a pathetic shantytown (called District 9). The creatures, it turns out, have been on Earth for years, having arrived sickly and starving. Initially received by humans with compassion and care, the aliens are now mired in blighted conditions typical of long-term refugee camps unwanted by a hostile, host society. With the creatures' care contracted out to a for-profit corporation, the shantytown has become a violent slum. The aliens sift through massive piles of junk while their minders secretly research weapons technology that arrived on the visitors' spacecraft.
Against this backdrop is a more personal story about a bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley) who is accidentally exposed to a DNA-altering substance. As he begins metamorphosing into one of the creatures, Wikus goes on the run from scientists who want to harvest his evolving, new parts and aliens who see him as a threat. When he pairs up with an extraterrestrial secretly planning an escape from Earth, however, what should be a fascinating relationship story becomes a series of firefights and explosions. Nuance is lost to numbing violence, and the more interesting potential of the film is obscured. Yet, for a while District 9 is a powerful movie with a unique tale to tell. Seamless special effects alone are worth seeing: the (often brutal) exchanges between alien and human are breathtaking. --Tom Keogh
District 9 downloadables (Click for pdf file)
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I saw this movie when it came out in the theaters and was immediately struck with how remarkable the story turns out to be. It is the tale of aliens who are stranded on earth and are placed in "slums" in Johannesburg, South Africa. The living conditions are deplorable and the treatment of the aliens, in many ways, parallels that of refugees from many nations throughout the last 20+ years. Copley, the company man, finds himself in a situation that makes him change is views on the aliens. The film has action, science fiction, and is very thought-provoking as well. This movie continues to be one of my favorite science fiction films!
I recommend to alien buffs and yes, socially conscious individuals.
But when it does...oh, wow.
District 9 is a freight train that somehow manages to creep up on you. Its complex premise is filled with incessant experimentation, with documentary-esque techniques used to set the gears in motion before resorting to more traditional cinema. It may be a testament to the director that the transition is subtle enough to fall to the wayside amidst both the exhilarating action and impeccable performance by newcomer Sharlto Copley.
In fact, Copley's performance must be emphasized: The radical trials that his character undergoes throughout the movie would be a difficult balancing act in the hands of any experienced actor; somehow, Copley maintains authenticity and a commitment to character that is both astonishing and emotionally crippling.
Even more impressive is Copley's acting debut when one is made aware of his most prominent co-star: Christopher, a keen and determined insectoid alien. Drawing from the film's graciously veiled root themes, Blomkamp's aliens are both repulsive and oddly intriguing. Their tribulations are made clear early on, but careful crafting is done to ensure that the audience feels deep sympathy for the prawn-like organisms by the time the credits roll.
This is accomplished, in part, by Peter Jackson and his digital effects company, WETA. Adhering to a $30 million budget, one wouldn't suspect that District 9 would hold the crown for the best special effects of the summer. Alas, this proves to be the case as the film moves forward, using its stunning, yet conservative flair to complement the film, as opposed to overbear it. Jackson and his team are masters of the visual arts, and it definitely shows here.
Let it be clear that District 9 is less of a retelling of a story, and more of a recording of an event; traditional plot features are often underdeveloped, or even wholly absent. However, the film's jerky pacing is offset by smart, white-knuckle action that leaves you breathless. There's definitely a giddy gross-out factor here that hasn't been seen since Jackson's early years, but Blomkamp ensures that it never overstays its welcome.
District 9 is strikingly original and certainly audacious, but isn't a movie that's difficult to like. On the contrary, you'd be hard pressed to find a film all year that is as satisfying and complete as Blomkamp's science fiction thriller. And, In the wake of unrealized visions and bloated wastes of cinema, that's a staggering accomplishment. District 9 is an invigorating and intelligent climax to 2009's summer, and should not be missed.