NOW PLAYING - Slow at first, 'District 9' enters captivating territory


District 9 is an entertaining, thought-provoking film that's worth seeing. It's also really weird.

And that's why I was squirming in my seat for at least half an hour as this film unfolded.

"District 9" is shot like a documentary with jittery cameras and uneven sound. It's set in Johannesburg, South Africa, where an alien spaceship appeared 20 years earlier.

That ship still hovers over the city, but the aliens inside -- weak and sick from malnutrition -- were relocated to a camp inside the city known as District 9. Over the two decades the camp has become a dangerous slum where the aliens, known pejoratively as "prawns," are at the mercy of Nigerian thugs. The conditions are horrific. The humans outside of the camp are growing increasingly disgusted with aliens.

As a result, the private security firm Multi-National United that oversees District 9 is given the task of relocating the aliens to District 10, which is located far from the city.
Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) -- son-in-law to the man who runs MNU -- is put in charge of the relocation. Wikus is clearly incompetent, if not stupid.� At first, and this is why I had trouble with the first part of the film, Copley plays Wikus like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat -- kind of a grinning idiot. As a result, I couldn't tell where this film was going. Was this a serious movie or a campy spoof of a sci-fi film?� I was about ready to throw in the towel and bolt when the movie started getting interesting.� Now, I don't want to say too much here to ruin your movie experience, but Wikus stumbles onto something as he and the MNU troops are evicting the prawns from their shacks.

As a result, Wikus' life is changed and with it his views on the aliens and how they have been treated. This movie, directed by South African Neill Blomkamp, is a commentary about his country's apartheid policies and the dangers of treating those who are different as less-than human.

Generally, message movies leave me a bit cold. The well-meaning approach is so wrapped in smugness that it often turns a film into a bland blob.� But District 9 starts to get interesting when the film gets serious.

We see Wikus change -- in many ways -- before our eyes. The film's characters come to life and we also get some healthy doses of action and suspense.� So, as I walked out of District 9, I was really glad I had seen the movie and gutted out its opening scenes.


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