A brilliant piece of work

 A brilliant piece of work ()

A brilliant piece of work ()

Those of you who have been living in self-imposed isolation may not have heard of the movie “District 9.” If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and go see it, for two reasons: first, it’s an excellent movie, and second, because it’s hard to do this excellent movie justice in a review; you can’t talk much about the plot without giving away one of the big twists that makes the movie so worth watching.

The premise behind the movie is that some twenty years ago, a massive alien ship parked itself over Africa without warning, ceremony or explanation. All attempts to communicate with it failed. After several months of this we got around to cutting open the hull and having a look inside.

We found a ship full of starving, malnourished alien creatures whose ship had apparently broken down and they were stranded here. Their behavior was violent and erratic, leading people to believe that they were part of a sort of drone-like worker class that had been cut off with the leadership, and were therefore directionless.

The decision was made to evacuate the aliens into a zone cordoned off especially for them, so that they would have a place to live. The idea might have been to eventually integrate them into human society, but the human population underwent an extreme xenophobic reaction.

The term “Prawns” was coined as a derogatory term to refer to the aliens, but it became so widespread that even advocators of alien rights referred to the aliens as Prawns.

The districts the Prawns were shuffled around to became worse and worse off, until they degenerated into the sort of ghettoes that the Nazis might have felt bad ushering Jews into. It’s in one of these districts, District 9, that the movie starts.

The directing starts out documentary-style, following the life of one Wikus VanDeMerwe. A hard-working employee and dedicated husband, he’s recently been promoted to lead an operation that will get the Prawns to move out of District 9 and into a new district, with even smaller living quarters and worse conditions.

It seems like good news (for DeMerwe, not the Prawns), but the “documentary” portion also touches on interviews with his friends, family, and co-workers, all of which imply that something terrible happened to DeMerwe during the operation.

The movie keeps rolling in documentary style right up until DeMerwe investigates one of the Prawn huts and finds the place packed with contraband technology. The directing gradually makes the switch from “documentary” to “following the main character,” and it happens so seamlessly that by the time you realize it’s happened you’re already well past the transition.

Unfortunately, this is right about the point where those of us who have seen the movie have to clam up, because anything we could say about the plot from here on in would spoil the movie pretty thoroughly.

I can say, however, that this movie was a refreshing break from all the movies I’ve seen lately. Despite the alien forms of the Prawns and the city-sized alien ship hovering in the sky, it’s one of the most “real” movies I’ve seen lately.

Thanks partly to starting with the documentary style, this is one of the few movies I’ve seen recently where I could genuinely believe what was happening on screen. Sharlto Copely does a fantastic job of portraying DeMerwe as a genuine, three-dimensional human being forced into a series of events that are almost totally outside his control. He’s not at all like the movie heroes we’re used to seeing – he panics, he begs, he pleads, he’s weak and compromising, and yet it’s because of all this that we’re able to so closely identify with him and everything he’s going through.

There are complaints that there is an unnecessary amount of action/violence in the movie, and while I’d agree that in some few cases it seems tacked on, the majority of it is well-done and didn’t detract from the experience enough to matter.

Part of me is bursting at the seams with the urge to say more here, but I know that doing that would only ruin the phenomenal story, and you all deserve to explore that for yourselves.

So if you haven’t done so already, grab a few friends this weekend and treat yourself to District 9 – you’re not going to regret it.