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
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Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
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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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Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
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Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
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Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
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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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24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
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16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
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3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish but incoherent Cheney biopic, hampered by another one-note turn from Bale.
5th Oct 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Mind numbingingly basic biopic, saved by the nostalgia for the music and moments.
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28th Sep 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Into the Spider-Verse
Stylish, trippy concept animated superhero flick with some great moments.
21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
22nd Aug 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing its way a little.
14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Stylish sequel, hampered in places by some authentic 1960s pacing.
30th Jun 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Out-there kids fable with an old school Tim Burton vibe.
16th Jun 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Rock solid 90s style indie movie. Beautifully assembled at all levels.
31st May 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Fairly one-sided Police doc about the seemingly dislikeable trio.
7th May 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent, but slightly muddled parenting indie.
28th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Forgettable re-imagining of a not totally unforgettable Disney classic.
27th Apr 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Solid stop-motion animation that’s light on plot, but high on charm.
12th Apr 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Surprisingly stylish sequel that drops the ball in classic straight-to-VHS style halfway through.
6th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Opaque Alaskan thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, with little regard for convention.
1st Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Low key indie spin on Rambo, as a father and daughter try and live off grid.
28th Mar 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews