Derek Winnert

District 9 **** (Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope) – Classic Movie Review 253


Director Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 satirical sci-fi action thriller from South Africa was a deserved, surprise worldwide smash-hit. It proves quite a breath of fresh air from the usual Hollywood blockbuster.


For a start, it’s nice to have a bunch of aliens who know something about the world map and could land somewhere that isn’t in the good ol’ US of A. Maybe they used the satellite view on Google Maps to find it! If so, well done, lads.


Nominated for four Oscars, Best Film, Visual Effects, Editing and Adapted Screenplay, it won none. It was major financial success, though, and a highly respected cult movie. On a $30million cost, it took around the same $115million in the US as Terminator Salvation, which cost $200million.


So what’s up in Johannesburg then? Well, quite a lot, really. A giant alien mothership has been hovering in the skies over town for more than 20 years now. And over a million of the creatures have set up in makeshift homes in the squalid shantytown of District 9. Then there’s a sinister company called Multi National United, which is after the secret of how the aliens’ weapons work.


So, when the company decides to begin evicting the non-humans from District 9, one of its field officers – unfortunate local bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) – is charged with supervising the task. But then he contacts an alien virus that starts changing his DNA and he is forced to go on the run.


Mixing ideas from Cloverfield, The Fly, Aliens, Independence Day and other classic movies, and playing like a video game, this sci-fi action thriller really does exactly what it says on the tin. It claims to be an intelligent, action-packed and thrilling – and it sure is!


Although it doesn’t look like a Hollywood movie, it works like one – a good one. The effects are gob-smackingly terrific, the Johannesburg setting and mockumentary filming bring a fresh take on the old situations and the movie’s one long thrill ride. It’s easy to forgive all its implausibilities, some dull humans and a lack of humour, and get swept up in the fear and panic of this scarily weird alternate reality.


Copley proves quite a star – if an unlikely one – and had his reward with his casting as Captain Murdock in The A-Team. Mixed blessing that, but never mind.

After this, his first feature, Blomkamp’s next film is Elysium in 2013, also with Copley.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 253

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