District 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp, 2009) – film review

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Film Review: 5/5

We’ve been spoilt for good films this year. I thought Slumdog Millionnaire was going to be my film of the year, then I saw Moon and then Let the right one in and now, this week, I saw District 9 which I think probably tops them all.

District 9 wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The trailers are quite good at putting you off the real scent of the film.

It starts with no titles, it feels like you’ve  switched the TV on and a documentary has just started about immigration in South Africa. As you watch you hear testimonies from different people and it becomes clear that some cataclysmic event has taken place, which won’t be revealed until much later in the film.

The film is more character driven than I expected. The central character, Wikas Van De Merwe played by Sharlto Copley, arouses  sympathy, admiration and revulsion in equal measure. It’s a superb exploration of the complexity of human nature and humankind.

Much has been made of the allegorical references to apartheid. I, however, felt the film was more about man’s inhumanity to man/people that aren’t like us and also a commentary on war. What is so good about the film is that it really makes you ponder these greater issues of life but with no hint of preaching.

Although the film focuses on a small group of central characters, the pace is relentless and there are some fantastic action scenes that wouldn’t be out of place in a summer blockbuster.

Just as Moon was indebted to Alien and 2001 A Space Odyssey, this film references The Fly (and for the squeamish, take this as a warning that it is just as gross in places!) and perhaps Star Wars.

I don’t really want to reveal more about the film here as I personally benefited from not reading any reviews before I saw it. Suffice to say, you will not see another film quite like this. I think it may well be my film of the year for sheer creativity and gripping story-telling.

For an interesting taster, watch this short prequel. The aliens in the final film look quite different but it’s really interesting to see a kind of demo version of the film first:

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