Friday, February 19, 2010
MOVIE REVIEW: District 9
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-ray
I must admit I began watching District 9 with a bit of a prejudice. I had intentionally not seen the film when it came out, as the plot seemed a bit tired and didn't really interest me. With its surprise inclusion in the Best Picture category, however, seeing this film was unavoidable.
District 9 is an ambitious documentary-style sci-fi drama set in Johannesburg, South Africa. For twenty years, alien beings (known colloquially as Prawns) have been living in a slum known as District 9. Due to the rising crime rate in surrounding areas, the government decides to evict the Prawns and move them to a more secluded location. As one expects, violence ensues, directed especially at the leader of the team designated to deliver the eviction notices.
As I said, I went in expecting to hate the film and was at least a little pleasantly surprised. The film was not a complete waste of time, as some of the action sequences were compelling and many of the visual effects were realistic and exciting. That said, the plot was thin and predictable. From the moment things start to get violent, an astute movie fan can predict exactly how the story will unfold. The acting also left quite a bit to be desired. The main human character, Wikus Van De Merwe (try saying that 5 times fast) goes from being dorky and corny in an Office-style interview, to a slightly over-enthusiastic company man, to a killing machine without managing to show much acting range or give the role the emotional depth it deserves.
The filming style, with its shaky cameras (think Blair Witch Project) and gritty realism (think 28 Days Later), are somewhat unusual for sci-fi, but they work decently for this film. The cinematography is nothing special but the art direction is certainly noteworthy and the film editing more than capable.
Look for District 9 to be a strong competitor in the Best Visual Effects category, and possibly Achievement in Film Editing, but it is unlikely to contend for the screenplay or Best Picture statuettes.