District 9 Review
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This summer, while everyone was talking about movies like Transformers and Terminator Salvation, another summer action movie was flying under the radar, quietly preparing to ambush audiences with an unexpected August release. And once you see producer Peter Jacksonís District 9, you wonít know what hit you.

Twenty years ago, a huge alien ship appeared just above Johannesburg, South Africa. For months, it hovered over the city without movingóuntil, finally, a team of military engineers forced their way in. There, they found scores of sickly alien beings, who were immediately taken to Earth and set up in a makeshift refugee camp.

Now, however, the alien situation is out of control. Humans in Johannesburg want them outóso Multi-National United has been contracted to evict them from their slums in District 9 and move them to a new camp. Really though, all MNU cares about are the mysterious alien weapons, which only work when fired by aliens.

As the operationís leader, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), makes his way through District 9, handing out eviction notices, he finds a strange tube that might just be a weapon. In confiscating it, though, heís sprayed with a black liquid. And, before long, he finds that heís slowly changing into something thatís less than human.

District 9 is the anti-blockbuster. Itís grittier than the usual summer action movie; it doesnít have that same big-budget polish. The director and his unconventional star practically materialized out of nowhere (though you can be sure that this isnít the last youíll hear from either). But maybe, after a couple of months of slick (and shallow) blockbusters (starring slick and shallow celebrities), thatís what makes District 9 so appealing: itís different. Itís more than just a bunch of expensive effects and brainless action. Sure, it does have its share of action and effects (with plenty of shocking, stomach-turning violence thrown in for good measure), but the concept is surprisingly creative, and the writing is sometimes darkly, wickedly clever.

The story is told, in part, through grainy fictional news reports and documentary-style interviews. And the rest is shot in that shaky, hand-held style that could very well leave you feeling like youíve been sailing the storm-tossed seas in a dinghy. Still, as much as I hate to admit it, as with 2008ís sci-fi mockumentary, Cloverfield, the shakiness only adds to the filmís authentic feel. And that authentic feel makes District 9 all the more surreal.

As for the action and effects, director (and former visual effects guy) Neill Blomkamp holds nothing back. There are fights and chases galoreóand itís violent and graphic and blood-spattered (which, incidentally, made me glad Iíd passed on the popcorn).

If youíre squeamish or prone to motion sickness, you might want to think twice before seeing District 9. For the rest of you, though, itís worth checking out. Itís a thrilling and thought-provoking sci-fi adventure thatís smarter than the average summer release.

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