I am velvety-smoothReview is BELOWI am veltely smooth, too
District 9 (2009) Film Review only
Film:  Excellent    
DVD Transfer:  n/a  
...back to Index
DVD Extras :  
Catalog #
...or start from scratch




Genre: Science-Fiction  
A bureacrat finds himself trapped in a slum with the aliens he was ordered to evict from the concentration camp-like District 9.  



Directed by:

Neill Blomkamp
Screenplay by: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Music by: Clinton Shorter
Produced by: Peter Jackson

Sharlto Copley, Jasonn Cope, Nathalie Boltt, Sylvaine Strike, Elizabeth Mkandawie, John Summer, William Allen Young, and Vanessa Haywood.

Film Length: 112 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic DVD: n/a
Languages:  English Dolby Digital 5.1
Special Features :  


Comments :

When an alien craft plants itself above the city of Johannesburg, the country’s military and corporate arms maker (a chilly entity called MNU) discover inside a million-plus population of humanoid, hard-shelled, severely malnourished creatures. After planting them in a settlement beneath the huge, immobile craft, efforts to live with the creatures in an apartheid relationship prove futile, mostly due to cultural differences, crime, and outright racism against the visitors by the irked human populace.

Twenty year later, the aliens, dubbed “prawns” because of their crustacean physique and facial features, are given twenty-four hour eviction notices, and are set to be transported the following day to a new favella, dubbed District 10, where the country’s regime can impress even greater controls on the unwanted guests of the state.

The easiest way to characterize Neill Blomkamp’s drama is as some political critique against the old South African apartheid era and residual divisions within the country, but there’s much more at play – something that’s also apparent in Blomkamp’s short film, Alive in Joburg (2005), on which District 9 is inspired.

In Joburg, the setting is 1990 South Africa, with city inhabitants becoming increasingly fed up with the aliens making demands for better living quarters, fresh water, and acts civil abuses, such as theft, riding the roofs of trains to avoid paying any fares, and tapping into local water and electrical systems for ‘unknown purposes.’

The aliens, seen only as hoodied humanoids with tentacled visages – also roam outside of the shantytown in armored suits, which they use to prevent arrest, and literally repel whole vehicles towards aggressive police forces (sequences designed to show off Blomkamp’s own CGI brilliance).

Blomkamp’s short contains the base elements for the feature – the mockumentary interviews with civic and official subjects, the impoverished aliens, an increasing tension between humans and aliens – as well as the setup that a violent clash is imminent, so it’s a perfect intro to the feature film’s more expansive story, as well as its much broader political critiques.

When stripped of the topical references, though, District 9 is a very simple and familiar sci-fi story of a human aggressor who’s forced to live with the creatures he’s traumatized when a twist of fate changes his life, and with the aid of his former enemies, he forms an alliance to help the aliens return home, and use their knowledge for his own personal salvation.

Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell have done a number of things to make their film powerful: it’s deeply cynical, the tone is unendingly intense, and rather than focus on a singular regime or political issue, they’ve collected relevant aspects of contemporary indecencies – cultural and corporate – and placed them right in the forefront of the drama.

Some may find the filmmakers didn’t go far enough in clarifying or furthering their own politics onscreen, but that would’ve blurred the fine balance of drama, fantasy, and allegory, and a film technique that’s sometimes quite Watkinsonian in spots.

District 9 is ostensibly a fake documentary on events as recalled by subjects who knew the poor bureaucrat, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley, who appeared in and produced Joberg), that was assigned to head the eviction process, and while Blomkamp uses interviews, footage from disparate fly-on-the-wall camera crews, and ‘virtual’ character flashbacks, he doesn’t fully cross the line into Peter Watkins terrain by providing a regular offscreen director whose voice narrates the drama, and is heard asking questions.

That’s a major difference, because it opens up multiple perspectives: whenever the flashbacks occur, they’re told using either field gear, or (in most cases) as memories of characters near some kind of recording device. But Blomkamp has to cross over into traditional film narrative by showing us the private, real-time events from the past because it’s the only way to build the pivotal characters of Wikus, the bureaucrat and oppressor turned wanted man; and Christopher, the savvy alien whose plans for escape can only succeed by allying himself with Wikus.

Blomkamp and Tatchell avoid some tried and tired clichés time and again by having their characters affected by the cruel human policies, as well as keeping Wikus more or less the same. Regardless of the dilemmas that hit hard, Wkius remains selfish and racist, and it’s a long journey before he begins to understand what his government has done is reprehensible, but the filmmakers show no mercy and never pull away from the ongoing bleakness. Regardless of whatever small battle is won, Wikus and Christopher are horribly victimized, and Wikus is ultimately locked in a kind of blunt-trauma, iron maiden, wherein he’s forced to absorb everything from a new vantage, with just the faintest of hope.

District 9 probably couldn’t have been made prior to 9/11 – Blomkamp has folded far too many stylistic approaches from recent mockumentaries, documentaries, and dramas -  but it’s not about 9/11, nor the corporate war machine involved in the Iraqi War and that country’s rebuilding. District 9 is a collage of disintegrating moral behaviour applied with dramatic precision, but without honing in on one singular event, evil, or regime, and that’s probably why the film will continue to be assessed and discussed with differing views for years.

District 9’s most frightening elements aren’t the recognizable ills and evils, but that should a mass of vulnerable aliens land on Earth (or mass refugee migration due to starvation, war, natural disaster, or political persecution), they’d likely be treated as wonders, annoyances, social headaches, and then genetic/social cancer. That’s one downer of a message, and whether it’s ingrained in the film or arrived at by happenstance, this is one of the bleakest sci-fi dramas in years, and a potent cultural snapshot.

To read an interview with composer Clinton Shorter, click HERE.


© 2009 Mark R. Hasan

_IMDB Entry________Script Online _________Fan/Official Film site________Cast/Crew Link
_IMDB Detailed Entry_______Scripts available online ________Fan/Official Film Site__________Additional Related Sites
____Amazon.com __________Amazon.ca _________Amazon.co.uk_______Bay Street Video_
__Amazon.com info______Amazon.com info____Amazon.co.uk info______Basy Street Video info
_Soundtrack Album________CD Review__________LP Review__________Composer Filmog.
Soundtrack Review__________Soundtrack Review_______Yes, VINYL_________Composer Filmography/Discography at Soundtrack Collector.com

Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author. Links to non-KQEK sites have been included for your convenience; KQEK is not responsible for their content nor their possible use of any pop-ups, cookies, or information gathering.