Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

District 9


Review by Stuart Bland

It is not often these types of movie come along, and thank god that every so often they do. You know that feeling. When you feel you have just experienced something special. Something which will be remembered in years to come. One of those movie going experiences which, if you hadn't, you always wish you had been a part of. One of those lucky people who got to see it on the big screen first time round. I got that when I watched Pan's Labyrinth, Lord Of the Rings and The Dark Knight, and I got it when I watched this movie. District 9 has just come out of nowhere. Hardly known about until the buzz started creeping out of Comic-Con. Talk of a masterpiece had been whispered. Something special. And now it finds itself as the most anticipated movie of its opening weekend.

The movie is District 9, the work of first time director Neil Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. And all the hype is fully deserved. A stunning mix of a social document, impressive visuals, fantastic acting, exciting direction and an absorbing script. Truly brilliant. Taking an important issue such as social welfare and the problem of dealing with illegal aliens, and expanding it to dealing with a refugee camp for real life illegal aliens. Having arrived on the planet with no intent to destroy, invade or even commit war, the aliens of are simply quarantined into a slum of Johannesburg, South Africa. Left to fend for themselves off scraps and tins of cat food (which they tend to have a keen fancy for), it leads to unrest from the local humans and over the course of the twenty years of their occupation they have had enough. The natives want them moved somewhere else. Racism, bureaucracy, violence. A melting pot for disaster. And so it is left to pencil-pushing Wikus van der Merwe to move the 1.6 million inhabitants into even more oppressive, concentration camp-like dwellings. Naturally, when encountering seven-foot aliens - who are extremely strong and unwilling - with a pen and paper, things don't go exactly to plan.

What follows is some stunning action, gory violence and some very tender scenes, largely played out by lead Sharlto Copley. His acting in particular is fantastic, especially for someone so inexperienced. He holds the movie together so well; you really want to follow him on his journey, from a mild-mannered, rather pathetic bureaucrat until his transformation at the climax. He is a very sympathetic character, and Copley plays it out so well. He is also supported by some brilliant special effects, as you would only expect from Jackson's WETA company nowadays. Although the aliens are very angular and insectoid in appearance, though, they too are very sympathetic characters. Their need to survive makes them all the more human than most of the humans in the movie.

The cinematography is equal to this as well. A highly engrossing documentary and newscast style is imaginative and really helps involve the audience early on, keeping everyone up to speed on what is developing. It really helps document the social struggle the aliens are going through and the bureaucracy we live in today, telling stories through recounted testimonials and on foot documentary footage. The movie becomes more relatable because of this, more real, and therefore really thrives, drawing an image of racial tensions between black and white South Africans beautifully. We take what we see from this footage as 'fact' and it makes it all the more absorbing. I can only suppose Blomkamp hopes viewers will take a little closer look at the situation in South Africa and the real life oppression which should not be ignored.

This movie has been branded a “science fiction” movie. And it is. But it is also so much more. A compelling social documentary; a stunning action movie; a sensitive, somber and tender drama. And all this for just $30 million. It achieves and more some what some of the biggest blockbusters have tried to do this summer. This is something special. And hopefully everybody reading this will get the chance to experience this first hand in a cinema in all its glory.

5 / 5 stars


Review by Mark Lengieza

It is not often that films can mix balls-out action and dynamic special effects with a beautifully poignant and meaningful story.  District 9 was the first film this year to accomplish such a feat. 

With a story that takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, and parallels that of actual events taking place there, District 9 tells an incredible story.  What makes it so remarkable is that instead of using immigrant human beings to tell it, they replace them with actual alien life forms.  Even more remarkable, they make the aliens seem more human than most of the humans in the film.

There really is something for everyone here.  The characters are engaging, the acting is great, and there is a superb script and some great special effects (especially for the films $30 million budget).  When a film takes an alien race that looks vastly different from humans and makes you forget that you are watching aliens on screen, you know they have done something right.

The film’s protagonist, Wikus Van Der Merwe, is just about as complex a character as I have ever seen on screen.  He certainly doesn’t seem like it at first, but that changes in a hurry as the story progresses.  Faced with a set of unbelievable circumstances, his character becomes very relatable to the viewer.  His changes in attitude cut right to the core of human nature, building up to a final sequence that will leave you on the edge of your seat, cheering for both him and “Christopher”, the other main character, who happens to be an alien.  “Christopher” is just as complex and filled with human emotion as Wikus.  From his care for his child, to his devotion to his people, it’s incredible to watch.

It really is a feat to extract this kind of emotion out of, what is essentially, an action movie.  And the action doesn’t disappoint in the slightest!  The alien weapons are outstanding.  There are some great uses of special effects.  The aliens look great, and the ships are well done.  I can’t say enough good things about this movie.  There is so much more to say, but without giving too much away, I strongly recommend that you check it out for yourself, and see what I’m talking about.  It really is a film that needs to be seen to be appreciated, more so than mere words can relate.

A well-deserved 5 / 5 stars

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