District 9 is the name of the refugee camp in Johannesburg, South Africa, where a large group of aliens who landed on earth have been forced to live for 28 years. Many humans have grown to have feelings of contempt and disdain for the extraterrestrials and their slum-like settlement. The aliens are given the derogatory nickname “prawns” based on their bottom-feeding habits. As the nations of the world debate on what to do with the prawns, it is decided that a private company named Multi-National United (MNU) will be responsible for moving the aliens out of District 9 in Johannesburg and into a much more contained and controlled home further from the city called District 10. The man in charge of moving the prawns is Wikus Van De Merwe. He leads his troops into the ghetto hoping for a smooth and peaceful transition but when the humans enter the aliens’ makeshift home, all hell breaks loose.
Directed by film-rookie Neill Blomkamp and produced by veteran Peter Jackson, “District 9″ uses, for the most part, the same sort of jumpy hand-held camera-work (but even less-so) that was employed in movies such as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield”. With that, there is a mix of security camera footage, staff interviews, news reports and some traditional camera work that tells the story of what happened in District 9 during those fateful four days that the movie takes place. I really got the sense from “District 9″ that this is the movie “Cloverfield” wanted so badly to be. “Cloverfield” wanted to be a new chapter in the history of monster movies but it did not succeed. “District 9″ may have just done that for the alien genre. It is “The Blair Witch Project” of alien movies and I say that in a sincerely affectionate way. I loved “Blair Witch” and found it to the most terrifying movie I have seen in many years. “District 9″ is an equally oustanding piece of work. It has a bit of everything - action, violence and even some truly heartfelt moments. On top of all that, “District 9″ brings up powerful questions about the tolerance and integriy of humanity itself and not surprisingly, the results are not impressive.
Before I make you believe that “District 9″ is an absolutely perfect movie, I must point out that it does have it’s shortfalls. There were parts at the beginning of the movie that seemed to drag on a bit, especially when the MNU operatives were attempting to remove the aliens from District 9. It seemed we just waited and waited for something to happen. I guess this is how it was meant to be, but it just seemed to be a slow stretch of the movie. Mind you, when what happens does happen, it is well worth the wait. I also would have liked to have learned a bit more about the aliens. We are left with a lot of questions at the end of the movie about their existence and it would have been interesting to have some of those questions answered. The Nigerian gangsters and their witch doctor tactics were not a favourite either but I guess they just tied into the whole “human integrity” angle.
Besides the few minor issues I have brought up, “District 9″ is the place you should be opening weekend, if the alien genre is your type of movie. Considering how “District 9″ ended, it should only be a mere three years before we get to see how things are going in District 10