Thoughts Before

There s been a surprise smash-hit across the pond this year. In a summer filled with blockbuster sequels and big budget explosion-fests it s a relief to see a major release from a first-time director and unknown cast getting some real atte


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Thoughts Before

There's been a surprise smash-hit across the pond this year. In a summer filled with blockbuster sequels and big budget explosion-fests it's a relief to see a major release from a first-time director and unknown cast getting some real attention.

Direct 9 is, as the odd marketing campaign suggests, an aliens-come-to-Earth flick.

In recent years we've sadly had no decent extra-terrestrial moments. Steven Spielberg's War Of The Worlds was the biggest so far and was as generic as they come. And of course let's not forget the terrible Keanu Reeves' disaster The Day the Earth Stood Still...

According to the buzz from across the pond this film could be different.

I'm personally hoping this lacks the humour of Mars Attack or the blatant American-bias from Independence Day. The chance of this happening is extremely slim, no matter how many edited or grainy UFO photos are captured across Western countries, but it'd be a relief to witness a cinematic experience if the impossible actually happened.

I just hope the bunch of unknowns behind this don't fall to any clichés that falter the potential of this. Here's hoping.

Thoughts Afterwards

They arrived, they parked up and they seemed to come in peace...

A couple of weeks ago I proclaimed Moon as the best sci-fi movie I've seen this year and probably this decade.

Well, only a fortnight afterwards, and we already have a contender for that crown.

It drew from a number of themes used in similar incarnations and didn't really add a whole new spin at all. The premise was standard fare but the way it was done was, well, better than I've ever seen before.

Initially the movie is shot a little like The Office, with documentary style filming (although obviously with a lot more going on than the Ricky Gervais comedy!) interwoven with interviews from experts and witnesses. This was a surprisingly great addition, and probably necessary with such a small budget, and although interviews lessened as the action picked up, it stuck to the raw filming style throughout and it really worked in it's favour during the tenser scenes - it added a real sense of realism to the whole affair.

And realism is the flavour of the day here, even with an absurd story about alien invasions. The best and most refreshing change is that the aliens don't land in America! Oh no, for the first time in history (probably) the outer space beings didn't come to Earth to check out the White House or Times Square but instead landed above Johannesburg in South Africa. We see and get told that the giant ship arrived but done nothing for years until, finally, we humans decided to break-in ourselves to see what was inside. The result: a million or so stranded alien creatures, malnourished and weak, and who need a new home. A temporary section of the city, below the ship, is set-up (called District 9) for the aliens to live until it was decided what we'd do. Years later and the people of the city hate the conflict and crime the 'prawns' (as they call the aliens) have created and a new camp is set up further away from the city. It's down to clumsy but steadfast Wikus (bumbling Sharlto Copley in his first major role) and his team to issue eviction notices to the inhabitants of District 9...

The events unfold through brake-fast pacing and a hastened time frame, the viewer witnessing the first few years of the arrival of aliens in only a few minutes.

I read that the budget for District 9 was minimal and expected men in dodgy costumes and terrible computer effect explosions but I was hugely surprised. The film relies heavily on CGI, with aliens and humans interacting much-like Obi Wan and Jar Jar Binks did a decade ago. The CGI works terrifically well and looks very real, with ninety minutes of it on screen I didn't once cringe at unnatural movements or anything breaking through the third wall. For so little money they have managed to create one of the best looking films this year.

The cast do a terrific job and although some of the accents seem a little odd it adds a certain charm to the whole thing. For a first time director it's a miraculous job too; many scenes reminded me of the supreme Children Of Men.

Simply put, District 9 is the best aliens-coming-to-Earth movie since ET and can be acclaimed for showing a very human movie about the key social effects of such an event. It doesn't fall back on them turning bad and blowing up cities, thankfully, but reveals the unstable dynamics adding another intelligent lifestyle to society could bring. Intelligent, gritty, raw but most of all fun, District 9 really does have it all.

TIM LINCE

5/5 stars