I have never been a huge supporter of South African based movies (this one written & directed by Neill Blomkamp) as I tend to find them a bit cheesy, but this movie was definitely the exception to the rule. Initially, the first 5 to 10 minutes were a bit difficult as my Hollywood brainwashed brain, battled to get past the thick "Souf Afrikan" accents and the really gritty & realistic local setting. But my efforts were well rewarded with a fine performance from a truly brilliant cast, and a direction equivalent to even better than what Hollywood can churn out. Neill Blomkamp can a be very, very proud man.
At it's core, I would classify District 9 as a Science Fiction Action/Drama. And without spoiling to much, the movie takes place in a slum in Johannesburg, where a group of aliens (often referred to as prawns!) have been segregated from the rest of the populous after their mother ship breaks down and leaves them stranded on earth. 20 years later the story picks up where Wikus vd Merwe, a field agent for the MSU, is tasked with relocating the aliens to a "better" place - 200km's away from Joburg - where they can live in peace and without fear of conflict, confrontation and intimidation by the rather hostile locals. Thats the basic premise, however there is far more to the story than that and I definitely am not going to spoil it.
Wikus vd Merwe, the main protagonist, was brilliantly played by Sharlto Copely. Really, I was most impressed. His character was rich and complex and was played out with sincerity and passion. However, just when you think you have him all figured out, he goes and says (or does) something that changes your perception of him altogether as he alters his behaviored pattern based on the current situation. This depth in character is not often seen in movies, and came as a welcome surprise. Hats off to Mr. Blomkamp for focusing on this through his filming and writing.
Visually, the movie is a real treat as well. The setting is gritty, grimy & dirty and really showcased slum life realistically. The special effects present was also exceptional but never over used. The first part (or half?) of the movie was done in the style of a documentary, with interviews and news pieces glued together to enable the viewer to catch up on what has transpired, and with some liberal use of the "shaky cam" style. This really adds to the realism but is only prevalent in the first half as the second half tends to settle down on a more stable style of filming.
The movie has a 16 age restriction, and justly so. There is plenty of swearing, and enough gory splats that i found myself going "yuck" on one or two occasions. So you have been warned. But if you can handle this kind of thing, you are in for a treat as it's never really gratuitous, but justified most of the time because of the reality that the movie portrays.
After leaving the movie, I was still chewing over the whole concept which clearly indicates this is not the kind of in-one-ear-out-the-other kind of movie. I wouldn't go as far as to say its a thinking man's science fiction, but it definitely does leave some food for thought. Another great thing is that you don't have to be a Science Fiction fan to enjoy it, as my wife who is more into drama's, thoroughly enjoyed as well (she gave it a 10!).
So does it deserve your money for a ticket? Most definitely yes. Niell Blomkamp hit a home run with this movie, and we need to show our support. Go out and see it as soon as you can. I give it a strong 9.
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