District 9 (2009)

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Neill Blomkamp directs Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope and David James in this sci-fi actioner about refugee aliens in South Africa who find themselves oppressed by a corporation dispossessing them from their ghetto. 

I always want to like District 9 more than I actually do. It is an experience whose better qualities stay with you afterwards, even though watching it in the moment is an uneven jerky ride. Good stuff first. The immediacy of Blomkamp’s documentary introduction; retelling the history of the “prawns” arrival, their horrific treatment and the brutal day they are evicted from their hovels… an event that kickstarts the remaining action. The transformation of penpushing middle management stooge Wikus from cowardly arsehole to cowardly arsehole alien has shades of Trading Places satire and lashing of Cronenbergian body horror. Nice. The space craft, creature and weaponary design is truly iconic. Yet the story flows in unsteady bursts. Nightmare scenarios crop up from nowhere (good) or violent tangents distract us from getting involved with the end game (symptomatic). While Copley puts in a fine, mannered performance, his character is far too much of a shit. The trials he goes through are far too heinous. There’s no relatability for us to connect to him or care about his outcome. Emotionally it is all too scrappy and dirty to become a mainstay in my viewing habits. Preachy and exploitative, manipulative yet distracted.

7

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