Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review - District 9

District 9 is an ambitious science-fiction that's high on concept, but unfortunately is not 100% consistent in execution. The faux documentary approach used in most of the opening act is nothing short of brilliant, directly allegorical to the Apartheid that governed South Africa up until the 1990's. But as soon as the picture adopts a more conventional narrative style, it loses much of the story-telling originality it had going for it. By the time the climax rolls around, it's become a long violent action sequence, stunting the themes it had so cleverly evoked in the beginning. However, this shift in narrative treatment does allow for character development that would otherwise have been difficult to pull off in documentarian form.
The credit for this should go to star Sharlto Copley, who gives a simply superb performance as a government official charged with the task of issuing eviction notices to the aliens that inhabit the slum known as District 9, soon to be dismantled, leaving the aliens homeless. After being sprayed by a mysterious fluid, he begins to undergo a frightening metamorphosis (not unlike that of Jeff Goldblum's in The Fly). In order to elude the G-men who want his body for research, he needs the help of an alien from the slum, forcing him to confront his own racist perceptions.
Copley's transformation is evidence of a unique full-bodied performance, but it also represents an exceptional achievement in body makeup and prosthetics. The CG effects are strong as well, seamlessly integrating computerized aliens with live actors.
Though it falls slightly short of its ambitions, District 9 is still a very engaging and original piece of work. The surprising box office success may lead to a few nominations from Oscar, the most likely of which would be Makeup, VFX, and both Sound categories.
***1/2 out of ****

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