Aliens appear out of nowhere over the Joburg skies with a massive spaceship that hovers menacingly... and then just stays there, doing nothing. When humans finally get up the courage to go and have a look they find an alien refugee population on its last (insect-like) legs, and take them down to a temporary camp.
Fast forward some 20 years to where District 9 picks up, and the "prawns", as they've been dubbed, are living in squatter camp squalor, just another problem for the South African authorities. Responsibility for moving them on has fallen to the shadowy MNU agency, headed up by a naive official, Wikus van der Merwe (played with brilliant range from newcomer Sharlto Copley) who starts out like a character from a SA version of The Office, and ends up... well, in a pretty different place altogether.
District 9 has already been the surprise hit of the summer in the States, which is great, as it's the sort of film that might have slipped under the radar. It's a sci-fi that's got something to say and uses the genre to say it, with brilliant effects used to make both the aliens and their hovering ship blend into the washed out South African city backdrop. What it's actually saying is perhaps less clear - do the aliens unite a post-Apartheid South Africa at last? Or just add another dimension to the racial politics? Or is it more concerned with the abdication of state responsibility to private security firms?
With this and the cerebral Moon earlier this year it's probably too soon to hope that we're on the threshold of a new sci-fi renaissance here (and the Thundercats impressions of Avatar so far don't bode too well), but it's fun to see sci-fi getting smarter again - and to be giving us a story where we don't know what's going to happen.
Fans of Blomkamp's excellent short Alive in Joburg (check out our preview way back in 2006) won't be disappointed - this builds on the idea of seeing aliens land somewhere other than New York or Tokyo to great effect. Recommended.
4th Sep 2009 - Tumblr3.5
Ambitious, stagey epic. Plenty of tropes and it falls in all the usual 1-take potholes.
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Thoughtful, stylish drama with a zen central performance.
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Over explained threequel, that undermines a low key original.
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Marginally less fun sequel, but still plenty of laughs.
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Beautifully imagined and lovingly restored, but it still alternates between a snail’… https://t.co/6bZj694rnx.
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Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
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19th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
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Magnificent documentary, re-assembling the moon landing from beautifully remastered footage.
14th Jun 2020Read more 4 star reviews
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24th May 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
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13th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
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Impeccably realised remake, but it’s emotionally flat.
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Surprisingly enjoyable, Guy Ritchie-fied Disney remake.
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Cookie cutter biography that could literally have been written from his Wikipedia page.
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Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
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Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
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The Rise of Skywalker
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22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
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Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
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Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
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16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
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Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
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Into the Spider-Verse
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21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
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14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
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