Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9: One of this year's best

District 9
Three and a half Stars

By Gary Buiso

“District 9” deftly blends social commentary with science fiction for a smart, pulsating amalgam that is one of the year’s best films.

In his directorial debut, South African Neill Blomkamp confidently delivers a sophisticated critique cloaked in bug-eyes and tentacles. The allegorical approach is never heavy-handed, and the film’s rich visual effects are complimented by bravura performances, sharp editing and an incisive script: This is a science fiction thriller with uncommon gravitas.

The narrative begins twenty years after aliens have been herded into squalid refugee camps in Johannesburg, segregated and subjugated into sub-human conditions. The creatures, who resemble bipedal shrimp, are derisively called “prawns” by their human tormentors. After inter-species relations boil over, humans decide to forcefully evict and relocate the other-worldly horde.

Wikus van der Merwe (newcomer Sharlto Copley) is the officious corporate type charged with heading up the relocation. The first 20 or so minutes of his interaction with the creatures — his poking, prodding and coaxing — rings funny, tragic and above all else, human. When he happens across a shanty that is home to a homesick prawn with a working knowledge of astrophysics, he makes a transformative discovery that will drive the remainder of the action.

The film, produced by “Lord of Rings” director Peter Jackson, is shot in jagged, faux-documentary style, and exhilarates from start to bittersweet finish. “District 9” proves there is intelligent life in Hollywood.

District 9. Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language. Running time: 113 minutes. With Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, John Summer, William Allen Young, and Nick Blake.


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