After the emotional firebomb that happened to be Surrogates, starring one of my favorite action-hero actors—Bruce Willis—I didn’t quite know what to expect from District 9.
One thing that I must absolutely say is that I am thoroughly pleased with that movie.
Shot a little bit gonzo, rogue documentary style in the beginning, it manages to weave a narrative out of the videography and into pure storytelling with seamless ease. It tells a story of a not-so-empathetic main character who exhibits numerous, severe character flaws in the romantic-hero department, but is still very much a person. Albeit an otherwise callous and naive person at the beginning trying to cope with extraordinary circumstances.
The movie does an excellent job of not preaching or shoving ideas in the face of the audience while portraying scenes of what could best be described as racial violence, racism, classism, and population clashes. Displayed especially prominently because instead of setting the scene over a well-known, large US City (like Alien Nation with Los Angeles) it instead uses Johannesburg.
The aliens themselves, aka Prawns, happen to be both cardboard cutout ideological stand-ins for every minority; but have a compelling, and extremely evocative protagonist who comes across as a much better, more emotionally capable human being than the main character.
In the time allotted, the movie doesn’t manage to explore some of the problems as deeply as it could—especially noting the secret-government parts of the story. The fact that it’s not set in the US resolves a lot of cultural issues with government and racial divides (the use of mercenaries in lieu of military and civilian oversight) and it also provides a backdrop to juxtapose the treatment of the prawns vs. the external community, without actually invoking the outside community as a preaching point.
The action scenes are active, heart pounding, and I found myself caring what happened to both prawn and human—worried not just for the humanity of the human characters, but for the very life and love of the alien characters.
I’d love to see this again.
Perhaps it just resonates too much on the tuning fork of the dark side of human behavior.