Dis­trict 9: An In­tel­li­gent and Gritty Take on Alien In­va­sion

Un­like a ma­jor­ity of alien films, where aliens in­vade earth and leads to a dooms­day sce­nario, the movie ven­tures into a dif­fer­ent spec­trum of film­mak­ing with cam­er­a­work, act­ing and tech­ni­cal el­e­ments.

Distinguished Magazine - - Contents - ANIRUDH MADHAV

Dis­trict 9 opens with a faux doc­u­men­tary style in­tro­duc­tion with of­fi­cials and in­di­vid­u­als talk­ing about the stranded alien ship and the ‘prawns’ who have found home be­low them. Un­like a ma­jor­ity of alien films, where aliens in­vade earth and leads to a dooms­day sce­nario, the movie ven­tures into a dif­fer­ent spec­trum of film­mak­ing with cam­er­a­work, act­ing and tech­ni­cal el­e­ments.

As the first full length fea­ture of direc­tor Neil Blomkamp, Dis­trict 9 is an es­sen­tially an ex­ten­sion of his short film, Alive in Jo­hburg. Us­ing a sim­i­lar doc­u­men­tary style, Blomkamp has taken an ex­trav­a­gant ap­proach in the use of CGi, yet the movie feels in­cred­i­bly real. For in­stance, the space­ship that parks it­self over the city due to some mal­func­tion is given a hazy, out of fo­cus view of the hand­held cam­era while the ‘prawns,’ in the midst of hu­mans never seem out of place.

Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Co­p­ley) plays a mid­dle-man­ager for a cor­po­ra­tion, whose aim is to re­lo­cate the im­mi­grant aliens to a bet­ter camp a.k.a con­cen­tra­tion camp. As a debu­tant ac­tor Sharlto Copey is at his nat­u­ral best as a naïve of­fi­cer whose only task is to get the aliens sign a con­sent form. He is cau­tious, con­fi­dent and slightly sym­pa­thetic which leads to him to hu­man-like aliens Christo­pher John­son and son, who are sub­tly hu­man­ized with big­ger eyes and a body lan­guage like hu­mans. In the process, Wikus en­coun­ters the hu­mane side of aliens and sets out for their cause and for his own self­ish rea­son.

The sci-fi movie with its gritty un­der­tones touches upon po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies in South Africa. There is a glar­ing ref­er­ence at the ex­is­tence of con­cen­tra­tion camps cre­ated by the Bri­tish dur­ing the Boer war (1900-1902) and Dis­trict 9 cap­tures its essence through the un­wanted vis­i­tors who seek home. There is plenty of ac­tion, grand dis­play of alien weapons and its im­pact on hu­mans. Sev­eral se­quences lend out a strong im­pact in the movie, where Nige­ri­ans ex­ploit the aliens by brib­ing them with cat food while Wikus be­comes a mid­dle­man be­tween his or­ga­ni­za­tion and the aliens.

Though the hand­held type of cam­era work can be a bit tir­ing, the movie is crisp and re­al­is­tic, mak­ing it feel as re­al­is­tic as pos­si­ble. Though the film fails to an­swer why the space­ship en­tered earth or why the aliens were mal­nour­ished, Neil ex­plores the sur­vival as­pect of refugees in a sci-fi for­mat and de­liv­ers it bril­liantly. The pro­duc­tion de­sign de­part­ment has done a cred­i­ble job of blend­ing the CGI aliens and alien weaponry with the slum lo­cale in Jo­han­nes­burg. Cana­dian com­poser Clin­ton Shorter has given a dark mu­sic score with a South African touch us­ing taiko drums and syn­the­sized in­stru­ments.

At the end of the movie, Dis­trict 9 delves into the ques­tion of hu­man em­pa­thy, pol­i­tics and the so­ci­ety. From a short film to a 92-minute full length movie, Dis­trict 9 is a genre-de­fy­ing sci-fi movie that grows on its ideas with a ter­rific act­ing per­for­mance from the Sharlto Copey, the cen­tral char­ac­ter and the at­ten­tion to de­tail in terms of the aliens and the treat­ment on their ar­rival.

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