Saturday, February 13, 2010

District 9 (2009)

USA/New Zealand, 112 minutes
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writers: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Photography: Trent Opaloch
Production Design: Philip Ivey
Art Direction: Emilia Roux
Costume Design: Dianna Cilliers
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt

It's probably no coincidence that the aliens in this Peter Jackson-produced feature film debut for director Neill Blomkamp, late of "Halo," look an awful lot like Alan Moore's old comic book antihero, the Swamp Thing. They are certainly at once as ugly and as sympathetic, in this story of space travelers disabled by some equivalent of a flat tire on the shoulder of the galactic roadway, here on good old Earth, and subsequently marginalized and abused by our friends the human beings. If you can get past the fast-paced verite chaos of the pseudo-documentary style, which is not that much to ask with a story as forward-propelled as this one quickly becomes, your heart will not only find its way in, but likely break as well. I appreciated that, and also the spectacle—the giant spaceship hovering over Johannesburg (yes, Johannesburg) maintained an impressive brooding presence over all the proceedings, not least because, as the narrative found its ways to inform us, it had done so for decades, with no explanation (hence the response of fear and hostility on the home planet). As for the allegory, well, it's about as obvious as it gets, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. Works pretty well, actually. If the whole thing gets a little squishy in the second half—and that's literally as well as figuratively—there's still an awful lot of functioning pathos on display here, and sadly believable too. I only hope that the obvious sequel, if it comes, can measure up.

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