Saturday, August 15, 2009

District 9 is a cinematic achievement

District 9 is nothing short of a masterpiece. A taught, original and superbly paced story that maximizes it's modest budget and demonstrates that action/SciFi movies can be so much more than just explosions and the destruction of landmarks. The achievement is all the more impressive when you realize this film was really made by novices. Sharlto Copley stars in his first film role (literally FIRST) and gives a solid performance showing range, depth and authenticity that you'd expect from a veteran of stage and screen. Even more impressively Neil Blomkamp is directing his first feature film (he also cowrote the screenplay) as well and it's simply hard to fathom that fact when you see how well structured, paced and shot this film is. Despite having a small $30mil budget the effects in this film are superb. The film flies through exposition at breakneck speed that's a little dizzying at first and you wonder why they are going so fast -- until you get to the unforgettable third act of this film that is absolutely thrilling, edge of your seat excitement. The action is not just for action sake either. The film does a great job of getting you emotionally connected and invested in the well being of the characters.

The film is presented in a documentary style format that utilizes handheld camera shots augmented by cable newscast type coverage that helps the viewer get immersed in the unfolding drama. There are political undertones of segregation, immigration, police brutality, genocide and human rights but the movie handles them subtly and this does not come across in a heavy handed or preachy way. At it's core this is a sci fi action film anchored by a dramatic story that will have your head spinning and your hands clenched as the third act unfolds.

I saw this movie at a crowded opening night showing and was struck by how quiet the audience was during the movie. It was the quietest, most intensely focused audience I've been a member of in years. I credit that to the pacing of the film and the efficiency with which the story is told. There are no wasted moments of this film. No scenes that could have been cut. No special effects just for the sake of special effects (yeah, I'm talking to you Michael Bay). I believe that District 9 will become a classic film in the genre that generations from now will hold up and be a must see.