Movie Review: District 9 (2009)

Like many films before, I had seen the trailer to District 9. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to witness when I stepped into Screen 5 to watch the entire film. Trust me, when I say that no amount of description can give justice to the story but I shall do my best anyway.

We are told the background as to how aliens ended up on Earth. It all started when an alien ship mysteriously appeared over Johannesburg in 1982. There was no contact with the aliens and the ship remained suspended in mid-air. The South African government eventually took the decision to cut into the ship where upon malnutritioned aliens were found. A refugee camp known as District 9 was set up to house them. However, what was originally supposed to be temporary accommodation became permanent as the aliens could not restart the mother ship. Today, the camp struggles to contain the 1 million inhabitants and riots between humans and aliens make the city a dangerous place. A private military organization known as Multi-National United (MNU for short) is tasked with forcibly moving the aliens to another camp 250 km outside of the city.

Throughout, we follow Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), an average Joe who is promoted by his father-in-law to head up the relocation project. As he makes his way around District 9 handing out eviction notices, he is exposed to a substance which has damning consequences and leads to him to becoming a fugitive.

The first half of the film is told in a documentary style and in a totally believable fashion. Interviews with MNU employees and relatives, and news and surveillance footage is mashed together to set the tone of the film and create curiosity within the audience. Normal storytelling service is resumed when we get to the fateful moment when everything in Winkus Van De Merde’s life changed.

The central themes dealt with in the film are that of segregation and xenophobia. The aliens are left to live in squalor, and are known degradingly as “prawns”. The location of South Africa is also far from coincidental. Director Neill Blomkamp was born in Johannesburg during South African apartheid and he does an admirable job of tackling the subject. The film is bound to raise historical interest in the new generation as the treatment of the aliens is a clear metaphor for the way in which black South Africans were treated (you’ve probably seen some posters dotted around bus stops, billboards and phone boxes which signify that the areas are for “Humans Only”. These not so subtle marketing techniques are a clear nod to the signs incorporated during apartheid.)

What makes the film even more impressive is that it was made on a $30 million budget. Proof, if ever there was, that you don’t need $200 million to make a great film. The small budget means a great deal of effort went into producing a good story that will captivate the audience on substance. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t any money left over for there to be realistic CGI though — there is; there just isn’t two hours worth of explosions. That said, District 9 does have some extremely gory scenes and towards the end of the movie, the body count does pile up.

Watching District 9 is an experience that you will never forget. The film provides you with a rollercoaster ride of emotions from disgust to sadness to joy. It is certainly one of the best crafted and thought provoking films of the year. I look forward to the inevitable District 10.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
5 Star Rating: Fantastic


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The Critical Movie Critics

You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

'Movie Review: District 9 (2009)' have 8 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 11, 2009 @ 11:12 am T.K.

    District 9 succeeds brilliantly as an exercise in style, but the style promises a level of substance the film never quite delivers. If you’re looking for the late-summer special-effects action fantasy with big franchise potential, forget about G.I. Joe Instead, proceed directly to District 9.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 12, 2009 @ 5:58 am Raphael

    It isn’t clear if it’s exactly sci-fi, but an impressive movie and very original compared to other movies. Special effects are great too.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 13, 2009 @ 9:00 am Captain Arcain

    I was prepared for the visual effects and the style in which Peter Jackson gives you an intense and immersed feel for the universe he plops you in to when the lights dim. I was prepared for a good story and some gritty action sequences rife with splatter and gore. What I wasn’t prepared for was a raw story of human emotion and social commentary that struck enough chords to fill an orchestra hall. Oh sure, there was some cheese mixed in with the sumptuous buffet but that’s all part of the Jackson flair. Star Trek aside, I haven’t seen a sci-fi flick this good and this intensely passionate in quite a few years. Thus proving that the genre is far from dead. It’s merely been biding it’s time.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 20, 2009 @ 4:53 am Molly Taylor

    The film was brilliant. I completely understand when you say how hard it is to describe.

    It worked on so many levels, and such a new concept (well first time I had seen it I think) the story where the aliens were the oppressed. The documentary style seems to work even through it is combined with non documentary sections.

    And I found myself praying to god they didn’t make a sequal whilst desperate to know if he made good on the 3 year promise.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 2, 2009 @ 12:41 pm lee

    these comments are good and revelant – finally !!

    i have been reading lots of other reviews and need to start commenting in order to clear up some of the misunderstandings.

    ive read so many (usa) reviews about the “unbelievable main character” and the “fake accent” and to any south african Wikus is 100% typical of our own red neck those-who-never-apply for passports true blue south african. we all know lots of south africans who speak and act and (unfortunately) think exactly like wikus.

    there is a huge problem with nigerian violence, scams and drug trafficking in SA and the locals have been protesting about it. Our malawian gardener who comes to us once a week always gets himself robbed by nigerians when returning to the townships, we have opened a bank account for him so that doesnt carry cash anymore. Our friends in JHB had their son killed because a nigerian gang kidnapped him and asked for a ransom, which our friends paid for, and they killed him anyway. So yes, its very very appropriate to include them in the movie.

    The ruwandans, mocambiqueans, botswananas, malawians and all manner of neighbouring africans who have flocked into SA are corralled into the worst parts of every township and are called “aliens” locally.

    Racism? Well the white guys are depicted as the baddies and the black guys in MNU are the nicest humans so the racist card is not that clear.

    I find it amusing that people who would walk out of a movie only 20 minutes into it can write reviews and have any sort of intelligent opinion. The director clearly states that he didnt need to patronise the audience by explaining every little angle and leaves much to audience.

    A good movie is one that gets people thinking and talking and this movie sure does that !!

    I understood the brilliance of the movie when seeing it the second time and so much fell into place that I couldnt take in the first time because it was so intense.

    Hopefully the academy will do their due diligence and try and understand the social and criminal context, the accent and ignore some of the super ignorant reviews that have been written by folk who cant understand a movie unless it spoonfeeds and stars Will Smith !!

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 18, 2010 @ 10:16 pm Steve

    I was really touched by this movie. The special effects were unquestionably superior, but the story spoke more to me than any crazy effect could. District 9 is very deserving of its Best Picture nomination.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 8, 2010 @ 11:31 pm Micro

    This movie when it first started off I thought I was going to hate, but it really is a great movie not only sends a good message but it’s just overall pretty amazing. :)

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 4, 2011 @ 9:02 am Prader

    Here I thought I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed this movie. When I first watched it I couldn’t wait to talk about it to all my friends. They were not as impressed. I don’t understand why? The movie was brilliant, and it didn’t leave you hanging. You know exactly what happens, and in my opinion it was a good ending. It’s good to see positive remarks about this movie.

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