Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

District 9

District 9 is an incredibly imaginative and orginal science fiction film that also conveys a potent social message. In 1982, a spaceship comes to a halt over Johannesburg. When nothing happens, humans eventually cut their way into the ship, only to find over 1 million ill and malnourished aliens. These anthropod-like aliens are ferried from the ship to a temporary settlement on the outskirts of Jo'burg which eventually turns into a walled-off slum called District 9 and is run by a company called MNU.

The aliens in District 9 appear to be the workers (i.e. a bit dumb and mindless) of their civilisation and soon murder and other crimes are blamed on the "prawns". True or not, Jo'burg residents protest at the location of District 9 and in true NIMBY form, demand that the aliens be moved somewhere else. Even the South African black community want these social outcasts, who have replaced them on the bottom of the SA social ladder, gone.

Taking advantage of the aliens, are a group of Nigerian gangsters who sell meat and catfood to aliens (alien catnip apparently) at exorbitant prices and who are keen to acquire as much of the powerful alien weaponry as possible. This is despite the fact that alien technology is keyed to their DNA and is therefore useless to humans.

The film focuses on Wikus van de Merwe, an MNU employee who leads an operation to serve the aliens with their eviction notices, informing them of their forced relocation to District 10. He appears to be a man of two sides; loving to his wife and friendly, while displaying that peculiar cruel disregard that South Africans possessed during Apartheid.

While searching the shack of a more-intelligent than usual alien, he comes across a container holding a strange fluid. When he manages to spray the fluid on himself, he begins to undergo a metamorphisis, ultimately turning him into a commodity which MNU seek to exploit.

van de Merwe goes on the run from MNU and seeks shelter in the one place where people won't look for him, District 9. Here, he becomes entangled in an alien scheme to escape from Earth, as well as avoiding the Nigerians who seek to use him for their own purposes. We are treated to glorious battle and fight sequences and excellent CGI effects (especially considering that this is a relatively low budget movie). Shot in a documentary-style, the pace is unrelenting, making this 112 minute film pass in a blur.

This movie is truly innovative, telling as it does a strong tale on xenophobia, racism and greed. Most of the characters portry a disturbingly casual apathy and cruelness to the aliens, as if they are sub-creatures Ultimately, van de Merwe faces his own cowardice and prejudice in order to do the right thing but sadly humanity in the film does not appear to learn any lessons, leaving the viewer to wonder how events will unfold.

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