District 9 (Film review of 4/5)
Now before you write this film off as another mindless alien film, this film is quite different. District 9 is actually about the aliens; although metaphorically it could easily be about any group of foreigners living in lands where their relationship with the natives breaks down into violence. The first quarter of this film is edited and shot as if it was a documentary on the main character Wikus, (Sharlto Copley plays Wikus van der Merwe).
District 9 – a modern film on the treatment of foreigners?
Wikus is a member of a company that deals with the rights of, and issues involving, the residence of 1 million aliens who arrived and were granted sanctuary in the surrounding area of Johannesburg. On searching one of the slum buildings, Wikus accidentally activates an aerosol that sprays a black fluid into his face. His health then begins to quickly deteriorates and eventually leads to him blacking out. Worried about what is wrong his family and friends rush him to the local hospital. Here his actual condition is realised as a doctor discovers an old wound has mutated into alien tissue. Wikus is quickly isolated and rushed off to a science lab at the company building he works at, here they discover that he is now able to utilise the alien weaponry that they have been confiscating for 20 years without the ability to use.
As one of the worlds biggest arms dealers, the company soon realise Wikus’ worth, hoping to extract the combined DNA of human and alien they conduct some very invasive tests. Before they can perform a pre-mortem (a post-mortem before death), Wikus manages to throw off his guards and escape the facility. The rest of the film pans out with the company chasing Wikus through the Johannesburg slums while he slowly mutates into a ‘prawn’. Prawn is the derogatory slang term used to describe the aliens.
This film is well acted, is shot particularly well, has a great story line and a good script. Sharlto Copley was a big gamble to play such a lead roll, as I believe he was a fairly unknown actor, but he manages to play his part very convincingly.
Struck with pure terror as his body begins to mutate, rejected by his wife and hunted down by his own company, it was clearly a big ask but he pulls out a great performance.
District 9 – my conclusion
The special effects are very well done yet not over the top. It looks like they genuinely did fly around in helicopters with armed men hanging from them. Some aerial shots of the alien-ridden slums.
Although their isn’t much to the story, the biggest quantity of material comes from the relationships between characters (humans & prawns alike) and how their views of each other changes as their rolls are reversed.
One area I dislike about District 9 is I feel it starts with rather an inconsistent style.
To begin with we have Wikus talking to the camera and following him around as if he is being interviewed, but then it swaps to normal film perspective. Perhaps this is a method for you to feel more for the main actor, or to instantly engage the viewer with what they’re about to see, but personally I think its just a bit strange. They should have stuck with one method or the other.
Needless to say its District 9 is worth a watch although some of the scenes are probably not for the faint hearted.