The story is this: Decades ago a space ship appeared above Earth, coming to a standstill above Johannesburg, South Africa. Growing anxious with the lack of contact, humans decided after months of waiting to take the first step, cutting into the ship to gain access. What they found were millions of malnourished aliens (or “prawns”). Unable to leave the planet, it was decided that in order to “help” the prawns, they would be placed in a sort of shantytown, watched closely over by the militant eye.
However, the story actually begins with Wikus Van De Merwe, a self-righteous, yet awkward employee of the Multi-National United, or MNU. Though he may not be the best man for the job, he is given the task of moving the prawns to a new campsite in order to stifle the uproar their presence is causing with the human citizens of the city. Unfortunately for Wikus, this process cannot occur without something going wrong, and horribly so.
With a story like this, a strong actor is needed to carry the film, especially considering he will be acting against CGI aliens for a lot of it. Luckily for us, Sharlto Copley does this, and more, making it incredibly hard to believe this is his debut role. Not only is he perfect in presenting a man who lets his new promotion go to his head slightly as he tries to perform for the cameras during the eviction process, but he really shines in his portrayal of horror, uncertainty and desperation once everything begins spinning out of his control.
With all this said, what really makes this movie for me is the way in which it is presented. Following the trend of many movies today of a more radical subject matter, District 9 is presented, at times, through news footage and interviews. Now I am not knocking other films of the science fiction genre, but what should be appreciated about this choice is that, similar to Cloverfield and Quarantine, this style adds a sense of reality that other styles may often lack. Not only does it help place all of the beautifully, and realistically, rendered computer generated images in the real environments (especially the prawns, but it also places emphases on the social issues being presented. By adding the illusion that there is an extra lens between the viewer and the footage, particularly with the news footage, this story of discrimination is able to seem unbiased for the most part, and therefore, keeps from becoming preachy.
As much as I love action filled sci-fi films, the ability to integrate that into a story as strong as this in presenting social commentary is what will make this one of the best films of the year, of any genre.
Final Grade: A