Close Encounters in South Africa
District 9 Makes Teen Critic’s Best List
Monday, August 17, 2009
"District 9" (opened August 14 throughout San Diego) is the best movie of the year. I’m not going to dance around it, or give you some kind of long-winded introduction to that statement because it would simply be an unnecessary waste of time for a film that so greatly deserves your attention. I will say this: I’ve seen the film two times already, once at Comic-Con and again earlier this week, and not only does the film manage to still impress, but its power was actually amplified the second time I saw it. And even though I’ve seen it twice now, I already have plans to actually pay my 10 bucks, take a seat next to a group of everyday movie-going folk and enjoy the movie for a third (and possibly even fourth) time. I don’t want to say much about this film because I’d really recommend you walk into this film knowing as little as you can. All I will really say is that this is simply one of the greatest science-fiction stories of the 21st century and is a film that manages to use every tool it has available to the utmost success (not to mention that it uses these tools to actually serve the story rather than make up for a lack of story).
Of course, there are those who want to know a little about what they’re walking into, so I’ll make this brief and concise. The film follows Wikus Van De Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley), a man who works as an agent for the conglomerate MNU (Multi-National United), an organization that has been tasked with relocating more than a million alien creatures from a slum in South Africa known as “District 9” to a new camp. The job of overseeing this relocation falls into the lap of Wikus, who must deal with the many difficulties the job entails, from public relations to actually dealing with the (at times) hostile aliens themselves, referred to as “prawns." And with that, I leave you. But, just in case, that doesn’t quite sound like the action thrill-ride you were anticipating, I will say that what I said is just a fraction of the film’s story, and trust me, you’ll never guess where this film ends up going.
This film is simply one of the most well made films I’ve seen in recent memory, as it successfully manages to balance comedy, action, drama, suspense, gore, and social commentary in the service of pure unadulterated original storytelling. After seeing this film just once, I was certain of one thing: We’ll be seeing a lot more of Neill Bloomkamp, the South African filmmaker who makes his directorial debut with this film. Bloomkamp puts his imagination to no limits with what he does in this film - from the techniques he uses to tell this story to the incredible creature and production design. Trust me, when you see these aliens up close, it will blow your mind just how realistic and detailed these creatures look. Not only is it their design that impresses me, but this film is also one of few films that manage to obtain that rare thing in movies, capturing a believable performance from a digital character. In fact, this movie serves as one of the best examples of creating true interaction between the live-action actors and their digital co-stars. Perhaps the most staggering thing about this film is that it was made with a budget of just $30 million. Watch the film with that in mind, and ask yourself why studios feel the need to throw $150 or $200 million towards movies like "Transformers" or "G.I. Joe," only to end up with films that feature less convincing special effects and about one 100th of the imagination and creativity this film has. One more thing I feel I must mention before I finish is the performance of Mr. Copley. This guy came from little-to-no acting experience, without even the dream of becoming an actor in any capacity, and here he brings one of the most tragic, honest, and well-crafted performances of the year. So, make no mistake, "District 9" is the film to beat this year, and that is no small task.
"District 9" is rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language.
--Michael Shymon just graduated from The Bishop's School. He has had an avid passion for film since he was about 5. He enjoys acting, writing, watching movies, as well as making his own films. He will be attending NYU Tisch Film School next year and hopes that all this movie watching will one day pay off.
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