|Directed by||Neill Blomkamp|
|Cast||Sharlto Copley as Wikus van de Merwe|
|Music by||Clinton Shorter|
|Produced by||Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham|
|Length||1 hour 52 mins|
District 9 is a 2009 gritty, grimy, science fiction thriller placed in South Africa. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, the movie uses relatively unknown actors – Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, and David James and adapts a pseudo-documentary style (at least at the start). District 9 was inspired by events during the apartheid era in District Six, Cape Town. The film won many awards and nominations. With a relatively low budget of 30 million US$, it was a box office hit with a collection of over 210 million US$.
“Technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching, District 9 has action, imagination, and all the elements of a thoroughly entertaining science-fiction classic.”
– Rotten Tomatoes
The Setting and Story
The background: Sometime is 1982, a huge alien ship is found hovering above Johannesburg (South Africa). Humans board the spaceship and find hungry, ailing, and malnourished aliens. The aliens (who look like prawns) are taken down and housed in a camp specially earmarked for them and called ‘District 9’. Eventually the humans and aliens are able to communicate.
The main story is set in 2010, twenty-eight years after the initial arrival of the aliens. The alien camp has turned into a filthy ghetto/ slum. Humans (of all races) are unanimous in their hatred for the aliens and their ways. Contact between the humans and the ‘prawns’ is minimized. Like in all ghettos of the world, there is illegal trade between the ‘prawns’ and humans run by gangsters.
As the friction in the city increases, the government decides to relocate the aliens to a different camp, further away from human beings. The aliens are reluctant to move. The ‘project’ for relocating the aliens in assigned to an international security organization called MNU. MNU is primarily interested in understanding technology of the aliens’ advanced weaponry (and less in their welfare).
The relocation project is led by Wikus van de Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley), a bureaucrat who is also the son-in-law of the boss of MNU. Wikus is neither bright nor does he have any empathy for others. He swaggers up to alien shanties and asks residents to sign relocation consent forms. He has no sense of caution and ends up getting infected with some biological spray and starts changing into a ‘prawn’.
The rest of the story is about Wikus’ gradual transformation, the aliens’ quest for a better future, and their conflict with the brutal MNU.
One of the Best Science Fiction Movies
The movie starts slowly in a pseudo-documentary style with shaky camera work. Then the pace picks up and the style moves to normal movie slickness as the events unfold rapidly. The last quarter of the movie is full of mind-boggling action (messy and grisly too).
The film highlights xenophobia, species-ism (like racism), segregation and general stupidity of the human race. It’s different, darkly funny, entertaining and thought-provoking, all at the same time.
I put District 9 in the same league as The Matrix and Alien (the original one). It is better than the recent SF blockbusters like Gravity and Interstellar. A must-see even if you are not a SF fan.
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