Image by sgroi via Flickr
Based on his short film, Alive in Jo’burg, Neil Blomkamp has come up with an intelligent science-fiction action movie in District 9. Shot mostly in a mock-documentary style the movie chronicles an alternate Johannesburg twenty years after an alien ship arrived.
In a plot heavily influenced by Apartheid era South Africa, the aliens are forced into the eponymous District to keep them separate from the native Jo’bergers but this does nothing to quell unrest. We follow newly-promoted bureaucrat Wikus Van De Merwe (in an amazing breakthrough performance by Sharlito Copely who improvised most of his dialogue) as he leads a team to move the Prawn to a new camp, two-hundred miles away from any human settlement.
Despite the science fiction plot and more obviously fantastical elements, there is a gritty realism that pervades the whole movie, especially in the more mockumentary parts. The effects are flawless and fit into the dystopian background of the shanty town that has built up in the aliens’ ghetto and the aliens themselves are a far cry from the plastic and latex creations of Alien Nation. Many difficult questions are asked and few answers are given – like most good science fiction the movie is more than just an excuse for spotty teenagers to see some explosions, but serves to make us think about xenophobia, racism, and how we treat each other as a society.
One of the best films of the decade.