Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: District Nine

As I left the cinema having watched District Nine the woman behind told her partner “I’ve never been to a film that made me want to puke and cry at the same time.” I have sympathy with her but she’d clearly not seen Tim Burton’s atrocity of a remake of Planet of the Apes. Worst – film – ever.

However, when it comes to District Nine we have a powerful film, well executed and inventively playful with what must now be a genre of ‘alien space juggernaut hovering overhead as the city beneath trembles’.

The film sees a host of strange looking alien creatures arrive, bedraggled and helpless, at Johannesburg where the locals welcome them with the open arms of those who know the whole world is watching.

They might take the aliens in but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to house them in anything but shanty town conditions of ‘District Nine’ an obvious echo of the infamous episode in ‘District Six’ where the apartheid regime ethnically cleansed an entire part of the city, but let’s get back to the film.

Lead actor, Sharlto Copley, does an incredible job in his role as fascist scum bag, who through some unfortunate circumstances begins to sympathise with the aliens. We see the casual brutality of otherwise normal seeming men against those who they see as a species apart from themselves, less than animals, simply a problem that has to be managed in the most efficient way possible.

I wont go into detail for those yet to see the film but while there is a substantial amount of gore and violence (hence the puke remark) it is by no means a slasher / effects film. There is a genuine core narrative to the film that is well worth following.

It is very effective as a pulling apart of racism, authoritarianism and the dehumanisation of others. It’s also a bloody great sci-fi film with lots of cool aliens and stuff. As long as you have a strong stomach you will, like me, give the film five stars.


Benjamin Solah said...

I enjoyed and particularly liked the parallels with apartheid South Africa and even Palestine.

My one criticism was the portrayal of the Nigerian gangs - but this is hardly different from any other film portraying Africa.

stuart said...

I don't see the problem with the Nigerian thing. They were portrayed as less than human, but were the white paramilitaries in the film not portrayed in a less than human way too? And then what is human...etc...etc

I think the racial divide was delibarate, and I could see at as trying to test our mind of what we see as acceptable. Bottom line was, they were both seen as evil in the film.

Jim Jay said...

I was interested to see the Nigerian thing but any realistic portrayal of poverty will be uncomfortable and I saw this as part of that.

Any drama that has strong racial elements (in this case simply the setting) without exploring the dirty side of that is propaganda not drama. So D9 did well on this I thought.

My main complaint at the moment is that drama (sci-fi or no) seems to think that racism never existed. So, last night, I saw a re-run of a Dr Who episode set in the US in the 30's. Whatever other problems they may have had it was an example of society in perfect racial harmony.

Completely unnecessary but also a missed trick as the alien enemy was the daleks whose own ideas of racial purity were being questioned. Their could have been an interesting extra layer... but no, it was all peace and love on that score.