Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9 - A Fine Line

Neill Blomkamp, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa and a reknowned special effects artist, hands us this summer time thriller a little raw and under done.

You can tell his special talents lay in the special effects department, and not so much in the story telling area. The film has a raw and edgy film style both in the cinematography aspects and editing, which fuels the adrenalin pace of the action. But it lacks a higher purpose for being. The basic premise is that an alien ship runs out of gas in our lower atmosphere, and the occupants are slowly dying. For some strange reason , that is not explained, we literally download them into ghetto style prison camps. And apparently the aliens put up with this arrangement for 20 years.

The main character Wikus Van De Merw played by Sharlto Copley is appointed to relocate the aliens further away from civilization to another holding area. Copley gives a really fantastic performance as the naive Inspector Clouseau like official who spear heads the relocation efforts, and is soon thrusted into the role of super hero.

In the beginning Wikus is this gung ho bafoon who ends up getting himself into a world of trouble when he allows an alien compound to come in contact with his face, which as you will soon find out changes not only his life, but his perceptions of the aliens and the race of people he belongs to!

The film does have some strong underlying moral issues permeating the plot, but basically it just a non stop roller coaster ride of special effects and unbelievable action beats. But again, I will say this the effects are well done, and quite gross and disturbing at times.

The real glue that holds the film together is Wikus who must help an alien father and his son, in order to help himself get back to his own wife and family. In the process Wikus finds out how barbaric and exploitive we really are as human beings, and how intolerant we are to those who are not like us. You end up identifying more with the aliens than you do with the humans, by the time the story is over. Which I assume was the point in the first place.

There are some poignant moments to the film, but over all it is more a horror/action thriller. It is sort of a hodge podge mix between Aliens, The Fly and E.T. In some cases it is so silly, that it is hard to take it seriously. Especially towards the end when our hero dons an alien exoskeleton device right out of the Transformers and plays Rambo fighting off an overwhelming army of bad guys, while E.T. and his son try to "Go Home"!

It is not a horrible film, like I said the effects are fantastic, as is the compelling performance by Sharlto Copley, but the plot sort of goes all over the place, and the point gets lost somewhere in between. But since this is an adaptation of a graphic novel/comic book, it fairs as well as other such attempts. Definitely worth a look.

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