Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

September 11, 2009

Prawn cocktail

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 2:05 pm

September 11, 2009

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt

Director: Neill Blomkamp

The best sci-fi thriller you’ve seen in years, District 9 takes such mega-budget crap as Transformers 2 and GI Joe and rubs their faces in mud. Helmed by South African-born writer-director Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, this is edge-of-the-seat entertainment with a sociopolitical message — a cerebral blockbuster if you like.

Now here’s the film’s plot: In the 1980s, an enormous spaceship suddenly stopped over Johannesburg city, and its inhabitants, instead of launching a hostile attack, had to be relieved from their stranded vehicle and accommodated on earth. Far away from human population, a refugee camp known as District 9 was created for these crustacean-like aliens, who have since come to acquire the derogatory nickname, “prawns”.

Cut to the present day. A private company, MNU is put in charge of evicting the aliens from District 9 which has turned into something of a slum over the years. The officer in charge of eviction and relocation, Wikus van der Merwe (played by first-timer Sharlto Copley) fails to take precautions during the evacuation and becomes infected with alien DNA.

The movie obviously stirs thoughts of the old South African apartheid system, especially in the manner in which the prawns are portrayed as trapped between a private-contract army that breaks into their homes at will, and an underworld of Nigerian gangsters who exploit them. Yet the film never turns into a lecture on tolerance; the message is out there but you’re never pounded on the head with it.

District 9 is more engaging than most sci-fi films because it adopts a docudrama approach to the unraveling of its story, and because it’s never overwhelmed by its own special effects like most films of this genre invariably are.

The stars of this film are always its characters. Like Wikus, for one, who goes from nerdy but confident bureaucrat to helpless prawn-in-the-making. Or Christopher, the alien scientist who’s been secretly working on a plan with his son to get back on the mothership. Their unlikely friendship forms the exciting third act of this film which reminds you, in case you’ve forgotten, that you’re watching an action blockbuster after all — there’s enough bullets flying, blood splattering, and big explosions to make hardcore fans very happy.

Like all good films, this one too works because it’s a compelling drama that’s driven by its characters. As a sci-fi saga, it never compromises on spectacle value, and still succeeds in staying smart.

I’m going with four out of five and two big thumbs up for District 9. Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you’ll still enjoy this one.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress