Produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings), District 9 is also the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp. It is a stunning and mesmerizing work of science fiction that dazzles the audience not only with its visuals, but also with its brutal, and often times disturbing passion. The movie is based on a short film by Blomkamp titled Alive in Joburg. With all of the brilliant effects and CGI in this film, it is hard to believe it was only made for $30 million. In a summer filled with big-budget, no brainer films such as Transformers and G.I. Joe, District 9 is a movie that uses its modest budget to the fullest effect, and, as a result, looks like a film that was made for $100 million.

The movie opens with a series of interviews describing how a species of aliens came to live in
District 9. Apparently, twenty years ago, a ship halted above
Johannesburg, South Africa, and when humans cut their way in, they found a group of malnourished aliens. Thus, District 9 was created to house the aliens and keep them separate from the humans.

Twenty years later, a field operative for Multinational United (NMU) named Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is assigned the difficult task of transporting about 1.8 millions aliens to a new camp located 24 km outside of
Johannesburg. This mission does not go as planned, and Wikus becomes the recipient of an alien virus that turns him into a sort of human-alien hybrid. As a result, the government wants to use him on experiments, and, more importantly, to learn how to operate the alien weapons that are useless in the hands of humans.

Copley delivers a gut-wrenching performance in the lead role. He is likeable and also heartbreaking. I suspect that most audience members will be surprised as how emotional this film can get. It is also an incredibly disturbing film, not so much in the violence, but in the savage nature of the humans depicted in the film. The aliens, and van der Merwe for that matter, are treated like subjects and objects and the pain they go through is discarded by the government workers.

I would say that the first hour of this film is as good as anything I've seen all year. Copley is actually at his best in the first half of the film, and the movie follows suit. It is fast-paced filmmaking that is as good as any science fiction film we've seen this decade. However, the third act is quite problematic. The action climax at the end of the film, even though it is well shot, goes on way too long, and it seems like the ending cheats a little bit. The first half sets it up so well that the ending it a let down that doesn't really seem to solve that much.

However, this is still a film that is more than worth seeing. It features two brilliant debuts from director Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley. The
CGI is first rate and the movie will seem even better than it truly is when one compares it to some of the weaker efforts this summer. District 9 is really quite an achievement coming from a first-time director, and even though it falls just short of classic status in the sci-fi genre, it's still one of the best films of the summer.


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