DISTRICT 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp, 2009)
WARNING: This review contains Spoilers!
The documentary-style opening with faux cable news coverage and staged interviews with various talking heads depicts diseased extra terrestrials quarantined in a section of
Political red tape and alien racism are all the rage as we are introduced to Sharlto Copley as a field operative for Multi-National United (MNU), a huge conglomerate that, surprise surprise, may not have the aliens best interests in mind. Copley is promoted to the position of relocating a million or so of these slimy creatures that talk with voices that sound like Jabba the Hut with a vocoder (don't worry, subtitles are provided) and who are derisively labeled as "prawns."
Copley's gung ho demeanor - he's acts like he's never been out from behind his desk on the job before - gives the film a comic tone for a brief bit; going from door to door to get grotesque CGI creations to sign eviction notices is more like something out of "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" than it is ALIEN. It goes quickly from sci-fi social satire to an extremely unpleasant yet still gripping sequence in which Copley accidentally sprays himself with icky black fluid from some alien device he happens to pick up and confiscates. After his left arm mutates into a "prawn" claw, MNU officials sequester him for experimentation.
Once they determine that his changing DNA allows him to operate alien weaponry they decide to dismantle him in true Josef Mengele fashion. This seems appropriate as Copley tells one of the "prawns" that the new district 10 they are being moved to is more like a concentration camp than a new housing situation.
There is so much invention amid the brutality and visceral impact of this film that it's just a bit of a letdown that it descends into a 3rd act of routine action movie convention bombardment. However Copley's interaction with an alien that goes by the name Christopher Johnson, who may be able to help reverse the effects of Copley's virus, saves the concluding scenes from soullessness.
As a protégé of Peter Jackson (who produced this film) Neill Blomkamp has for the most part made a sturdy study of alien/human conflict that actually comes off as plausible considering all past human conflicts. DISTRICT 9 isn't a rousing crowd pleaser - the summer season may not be the best time for it - but it's an incredibly strong sci-fi flick as well as a gritty thriller that has a lot of guts.