District 9 (2009)
District 9, produced by Peter Jackson and written/directed by Canadian-based South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, presents its narrative in an interesting style in which a faux-documentary form unnoticeably is developed into a frenetic action film shot largely with hand-held camera. The setup is a spaceship stranded over Johannesburg, South Africa - filled with undernourished aliens. The apartheid parallel which dominates the film's first part is so overt and unambiguous that it borders on counterproductive. Still, there are interesting observations throughout the film concerning oppression and xenophobia, even if the presentation is at times overly pessimistic and reactionary.
The film is also humorous, however, and there is more than one hint of the atmosphere from Peter Jackson's early work in the film, as Sharlto Copley runs around evicting oppressed aliens in a cheerful and clumsy manner. Copley is quite funny, and the film is too if you can take some morbid comedy. The documentary style is probably meant to emphasize the negative portrayal of the aliens, but as we gradually see underneath their barbaric behaviour (which actually is barbaric, thus probably weakening the sociological comment), the film moves from superficial comedy to at times poignant drama. The bond between Wilkus, Christopher, and the latter's son is the film's emotional backbone, and Blomkamp directs the scenes between them effectively.
It is disappointing that the final part of District 9 is impaired by too much conventional and featherbrained action, including a shoot-out in which the rules and premises changes depending on what is needed by the plot. The stern and gripping reality disappears here, and both the government agents and the Nigerian gang is portrayed in a simplified and stereotypical manner. Luckily, Blomkamp has the skill to get back on track with an elegant ending. Despite its drawbacks, District 9 is filled with the richness, diversity and insight to cover them up.