Science fiction and fantasy
directed by Neill Blomkamp
To begin with Wikus carries out his role with gusto and brutality. The prawns are filthy and repellent, but in spite of this we're encouraged to feel sorry for them when Wikus bumbles in, cheerful and incompetent, and gets his job done without caring about how many of them he casually causes to be slaughtered on the way.
The aliens aren't entirely helpless, however. They possess weapons encoded to their genes which won't work in human hands. Nigerian gangsters are eager to get their hands on this technology. Desperate to find the key to unlocking it for their own use, they go to extremes. And the Nigerians aren't the only ones: the authorities want this tech as well.
With the South African setting and the premise of aliens in a slum, you might think the movie could be a metaphor for apartheid. There's certainly a suggestion of that, but it's really not the focus. Instead the story centres on what happens to Wikus after he accidentally spills some strange alien fluid on himself. It's more of an alien thriller than an Enemy Mine-style homily on interracial tolerance. For one thing, there's lots and lots of splattery violence. Anyone who gets shot tends to explode, and there are some gruesome scenes best not watched near dinner time. I won't give away the details.
Although it makes a change to watch fiction as a documentary, the format does have disadvantages. It's a little dry, and because the movie starts by looking back at events there are more spoilers early on than there would be otherwise. However District 9 has a very distinctive appearance, and the way it's told makes its unusual theme and oddball central character stand out further.
It's almost fascinating, until the film descends into a haze of violence and giant robotic machines. Hard-hitting and novel, this gross-out alien movie just misses out on a charge of being insightful because it gets too preoccupied with the messy business of shooting and blowing things up.