Cast: Sharlto Copley, David James
Direction: Neill Blomkamp
Disturbing and darkly atmospheric, District 9 marks one of the most accomplished recent directorial debuts. A consummate match of filmmaker and material, the trenchant sci-fi allegory grabs the viewer from the outset, not letting go until the end credits roll.
South African born Canadian effects wizard Neill Blomkamp helms an original story developed from his own 2005 short film, Alive in Jo’burg. A giant spaceship has been hovering over Johannesburg for over 20 years. In a thrilling twist to the alien invasion movie, the intergalactic occupants are herded together into a containment camp on the outskirts of the city.
Derisively referred to as ‘prawns’, the refugees are now to be relocated to a more remote district. An interspecies war erupts after a bureaucratic wimp (Copley) enters the camp to carry out the eviction orders.
The film’s opening segment is rendered in the faux-documentary style of a developing TV story complete with fake footage and mock on-the-run interviews. Few contemporary directors display comparable visual flair to create a spectacle along the lines of District 9.
Produced by the Oscar-winning Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), the creature design and prosthetics are astonishing. Throughout, cutting-edge technology is employed with a great amount of gusto.
Only 30 years old, Neill Blomkamp already appears to be at the peak of his craft, delivering both terrific action set pieces as well as unsettling observations on apartheid, racial tension and xenophobia. Here’s a calling card, then for a genuinely gifted new filmmaker.