Five Torches (Out of Five)
What would happen if aliens visited earth?
I’m not talking about sentimental film treacle about heartlights and flying bicyles, or the ego-stroking flattery about how America is so flippin’ incredible that it could even take down aliens with far superior technology (and no anti-virus software, apparently).
No, what would really happen? How would human beings truly react in the presence of alien beings?
District 9 pretty much tells it like it might very well be, and it ain’t pretty.
Told partly in documentary style, District 9 is the story of how, for reasons that are never quite clear, a group of more than a million insect-like aliens have become stranded on earth near Johannesburg, South Africa.
Flash forward 20 years, and the aliens have been put in a “refugee camp” known at District 9, where they’ve become subject to virulent racism, petty tyranny, and unbridled greed.
Then even that meager human generosity wears out, and the aliens are to be “relocated” to something that is basically a concentration camp.
You’ll spend the first thirty minutes of this movie wondering who exactly the hero is. But there is no hero — just one very weak, very pathetic man thrust into an extraordinary situation solely due to circumstances.
In fact, nothing about this film conforms to typical “movie” conventions — which is exactly why it’s so brilliant. Except for one obvious plot-twist (which has already been spoiled by being featured on the cover of EW), you have almost no idea where it’s going.
It all boils down to one withering accusation throw in the face of movie-goers: human beings are ultimately a very selfish species, caring about something precisely to the degree that we perceive it to be like us.
If you know anything about human history, or if you read the daily news , you know there’s far more than a kernel of truth to that charge.
This is brutal, provocative stuff — far more shocking than anything you saw in Hostel or Saw. But it’s the message that’s shocking, not its violence (which is graphic, but not extreme).
And just in case you’re getting the wrong idea from this review, the movie also works on the level of an absolutely riveting thriller — although, unlike the frequently-misunderstood Starship Troopers, it’s impossible to miss this movie’s message.
It’s also worth noting: this movie was not made on a mega-budget, but I have never seen aliens or special effects that look so utterly convincing.
If you’ve ever enjoyed science fiction on any level, go see this movie. It simply does not get any better than this.