There are only two things that can truly be said about Neill Blomkamp’s theatrical debut, “District 9.” First, that it is without a doubt one of the best films to come out of 2009, if not the best. Second, that you should be sitting in a theater right now watching it instead of reading this review.
Ignore the “Peter Jackson presents” from the film’s commercial’s, “District 9” is Blomkamp through and through. In vision and scope, “District 9” has done more with its $30 million budget than most films can do with $200 million. It is topical (though a little late to pack a serious punch), it is unique and it is surprising; three topics which aren’t often found in an alien action movie.
Written by: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Starring: Shartlo Copley
Running time: 112 mins
Seen at: Boston Common Loews
Without giving too much away, “District 9” is about an alien race accidentally stranded on Earth that is sequestered off into a government compound-turned-slum called District 9. Twenty years later, a Multinational United (MNU) employee, Wikus Van De Merwe, is given the job of relocating the aliens from where they landed in Johannesburg, South Africa to a new government compound called District 10, but during this mission things go awry, triggering the events which drive the rest of the film.
What makes “District 9” so wonderful is that there reaches a point about half way through the film where you realize you have no idea what is going to happen next. There is never a moment where you can anticipate what will come next (which is part of what caused the audience in our theater to cough out shocked laughs and applaud some of the finer moments in the film), but still the ending, when it comes, is perfectly fitting. Shartlo Copley, a special effects artist turned actor for this film, makes an impressive big screen debut — especially with lines he mostly ad-libbed.
But what “District 9” really has is a story. In fact, “District 9” is more about the idea of segregation — especially in South Africa where the film is set and Blomkamp is from — than it is about aliens. What is brings into question is the idea of what makes a human human, and when do other creatures become more human than we are; an idea echoed in the sci-fi greats like “Blade Runner.” For the first time in a long time, I feel it is safe to say there better be a “District 10,” because the story Blomkamp created reaches far enough to have much more to tell. Like Arnold in “Terminator,” we anxiously await for “District 9” to come back.