Once in a while, a film devoid of the usual blockbuster credentials comes along and achieves A grade status much to the embarrassment of its studio forebears. District 9 is one of these films, an experience so deliciously original and downright fun that its entry into any moviegoers top 5 of the year should be compulsory.
Produced with a measly $30 million, District 9 poses some devastatingly brilliant action sequences which are enough to make the far more expensive Mr Michael Bay smash up his toy pyrotechnic set in a hissy fit. Of course not all the CG is perfect, but on such a limited budget these minor quibbles are excusable; particularly when the majority of sequences boast some of the most impressive visual effects work that Hollywood has to offer. The fanboy-baiting lasers reducing humans to a bloody pulp is a constant delight which is presumably why it appears repeatedly throughout. Even the aliens look pretty impressive for the most part, managing to evoke genuine sympathy come the films conclusion.
But let us not stray too far into effects territory lest I paint an image of District 9 as nothing more than a gore-filled action extravaganza. For alongside the glorious visuals, District 9 exceeds expectations in nearly every other department. The premise of extra terrestrials being detained on Earth by shady governments for mysterious purposes is wildly original, although one need not strain too hard to see the obvious correlation between apartheid and Western imperialism throughout the Middle East.
Yikes, this is all sounding rather heavy. Fear not, it is easy to locate a tongue placed firmly within cheek. Despite being on several occasions a piece of rather moving and frankly disturbing cinematic genius, the shift between pathos and bathos is constant, whether it be the cheer-inducing displays of blood splattered violence or the lead character’s hilarious attempts to evict alien residents.
As it weaves incessantly between documentary and live action District 9 mirrors the schizophrenic transformation experienced by our lead man, Wikus, as he deals with becoming the very thing he hates. Actor Sharlto Copley moulds a fully 3-dimensional character who we never get a real grip on and come to love all the more for it. It may not be an Oscar worthy performance, but it is certainly far better than one could ever have reasonably expected from a science fiction action romp.
Second only to Star Trek this year, District 9 is a 2 hour orgy of tension, comedy and excitement which should only be missed by those too archaic to care for anything truly original. After all, when was the last time you saw a film use a live pig as a projectile?