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The Essential Guide to Bristol
17 September 2009
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District 9 (15)

The ViewBristol Review

Review byMatthew Turner03/09/2009

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Brilliantly directed and superbly written, this is a hugely entertaining, thought-provoking and thoroughly gripping sci-fi thriller with state-of-the-art special effects and a terrific central performance from Sharlto Copley.

What's it all about?
Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp, District 9 opens documentary-style, with a series of talking heads explaining how, 20 years ago, a giant alien mothership stalled above Johannesburg and that the alien population (nicknamed prawns for their crustacean-like appearance) were promptly housed in a walled-off ghetto known as District 9. When mega-corporation MNU is hired to forcibly relocate all 1.8 million aliens into a smaller ghetto outside the city, the job of collecting signatures on the eviction orders falls to Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), the nerdy son-in-law of the company boss (Louis Minnaar).

However, after an unfortunate accident in one of the alien shacks, things quickly go horribly wrong for Wikus and he's forced to turn to a prawn named Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope) and his young son for help.

The Good
Sharlto Copley (a childhood friend of Blomkamp's) is terrific as the hapless Wikus, delivering a performance that starts out as broad comedy (think David Brent meets Murray from Flight of the Conchords) and gradually deepens into something that's genuinely moving. There's also strong support from Minnaar, while David James does a nice line in evil bastards as the vicious soldier in charge of the relocation.

The script is excellent, touching on several provocative themes that are strongly resonant without resorting to beating-you-over-the-head preachiness. Similarly, Blomkamp's direction is flawless, ensuring a seamless transition from the mockumentary comedy of the first half, to a thrilling, action-packed second half, when traditional narrative cinematography takes over.

The Great
The special effects (courtesy of Weta) are state-of-the-art and thoroughly convincing throughout, particularly on the prawns themselves. This also has the unexpected effect of making the alien weaponry genuinely scary, because the cartoonish laser blasts and subsequent splatterings jar strongly with the realism of what we've already seen.

Worth seeing?
Put simply, District 9 is one of the best films of the year and it marks director Neill Blomkamp out as a definite talent to watch. In a word, unmissable.

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District 9 (15)
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