District 9

Guest movie review by Andrew Stern

Grade: A-

Science Fiction, Action Thriller, Political Allegory, this gruesome, dank, violent, bleak, gory, horrifying film is a near masterpiece from Director/Screenwriter Neill Blompkamp.

I have never seen anything like it.

Told in CNN investigation and interview style, a spacecraft hovers frozen and immobile over Johannesburg, South Africa, until humans venture inside to discover the 1.8 million malnourished and bedraggled extraterrestrials trapped inside. Welcoming as we are to all immigrants, refugee camps soon become crime-ridden, war-lord infested slums until the cries of “not in my own backyard” (from the black community in Johannesburg no less) force a mass exodus hundreds of miles away from civilization.

And then the real fun begins.

Sharlto Copley is the antihero of all antiheros – a pumped-up doofus bureaucrat at a Halliburton-style company given the task of alien oversight and transfer. Pompous and driven by general incompetence, self-aggrandizement and ultimately his own desperate self-interest, he would not initially seem out of place in “Guffman” or “Spinal Tap.” Comical if not also so completely absent of a moral compass, his surprise plight manages to be goofily entertaining while never failing to remain grotesquely terrifying.

The “others” in the film, aliens derogatorily called “prawns” for their gill-like countenances and scalish features are brilliantly shot and slowly revealed. You will believe. The action is brisk, the humor is macabre, the tension soars, nails will be bitten. Not for the faint of heart, the movie is jarringly authentic, so much so that one initially might be fooled into suspecting a low budget forced such bravura creativity. But don’t be fooled – the film is both visionary and visually stunning, capturing an oppressive doom usually reserved for film versions of the apocalypse. One must presume the same fatalistic gloom hangs over the refugee camps at Darfur, or anywhere else our inhumanity casts such a massive gray shadow over a corner of the world. Yet the film makes no such sweeping political statements – it doesn’t need to. Cat food is a treasured commodity, as we are seen stuffing our faces at fast food lines mere moments later. Extraterrestrials fight to keep their homes, shacks made with tin, cardboard and bits of manmade and alien rubbish. Locals make great profit through the misery and degradation of the “less-thans.”

Only the occasional formulaic moments (the cell phone that never dies and inevitably gets traced sort of thing) and characters (villains straight out of a bad James Bond flick) intrude on an otherwise completely original and awe inspiring work. The film practically begs for a sequel. Produced by Peter Jackson, who has previously demonstrated a penchant for the trilogy, one can only hope.

Final moments reveal the others take better care of their own than we do, blurry lines and all. Not since Kafka’s Metamorphosis has our species’ unique barbarism toward “differentness” been cast in such bold and blinding light. Deserving of classic status.

More Movie Info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1136608/

Mr. Stern has been writing movie reviews semi-regularly for many years and maintains a website with hundreds of reviews. Check it out at:


Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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