District 9 (2009) Directed by Neil Blomkamp. With Sharlto Copley.
Neil Blomkamp’s début feature film, District 9, is an imaginative and highly enjoyable sci-fi thriller, set in and around the slums of Johannesburg. Oddly, it falls somewhere between the entertainment value of Independence Day and the horror of Schindler’s List, with a spoonful of comedy for good measure. Intrigued?
The racially-charged background of a country like South Africa, and way in which the visitors (Prawns) are greeted, makes for potent symbolism in the early stages as we’re given a back story of the alien arrival via news broadcasts and talking head clips.
Once the scene is set, we’re introduced to ‘Wikus’ (Sharlto Copley), a government agent given the dubious role of serving eviction notices to all alien residents inside District 9, with a view to re-settlement in a concentration camp style, fenced off areas of the city. Copley’s performance is one of transformation, and plays perfectly nuanced notes of comedy and heartfelt tragedy.
The aliens themselves are beautifully realised and set a great example of how to get the best out of computer animation. The grounded sense of the locations and documentary style, further aids their integration to the point that we fully accept them as characters in the piece, largely forgetting the digital trickery.
Despite the setting, District 9 doesn’t try to hammer home a heavy political agenda. Its main aim is to entertain you as best it can, and in that, it does a fine job. Young director and co-writer, Blomkamp, has set himself up for life with a weighted piece of entertainment that pulls your heartstrings and tickles your funny bone in all the right places. 4.5/5