Friday, August 14, 2009

District 9

Step aside, Gregor Samsa. We have a new treatment on what it's like to morph into an insect.

District 9 is a movie, an idea -- or actually, several of them -- I've never seen before, and it should be commended just for that reason. However, it's not for the faint of heart. The first few minutes, and every minute thereafter, will bring out the queasy in you.

The movie opens in documentary fashion, showing us that an alien ship is hovering above Johannesburg, and has done so for the last 20 years. After the first three months of no activity from the ship, military forces break into the ship to find sick, leaderless aliens, and transported them all down to earth in a humanitarian effort to a fenced-off section of town called District 9. In casual glances at the District 9 aliens, we see that they're basically uncontrollable aliens with a penchant for cat food. We then shift to Wikus (played by Sharlto Copley), who's been given a promotion and the tough job to move these aliens to a more controllable facility, District 10. Much of the first half of the film shows this project and its disastrous consequences.

So much of this film is made from great choices. Picking Johannesburg, for instance, is a much better choice than the U.S. or Europe, a place where they're still fresh from apartheid, and maybe a bit more accepting of it for an alien population (nicknamed "prawns" because there is definitely a resemblance), and there's definitely a fringe human element that may not be playing by the rules.

I have a friend that claims he will not be seeing District 9 because he believes it has a heavy hammer. He thinks we all know the horrors of living in a concentration camp, and that history has demonstrated that lesson effectively. However, the film departs from this notion -- without straying too terribly far from its idea -- by about halfway into the film when something incredible happens which changes the scope of the film.

The first half of the film is a bit slower paced as we learn the players and the circumstance of belief; the second half is a wild ride which makes us question our humanity.

Thumb's up.


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