A provocative science fiction drama, District 9 boasts an original story that gets a little lost in blow-'em-up mayhem. Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, District 9 begins as a mock documentary about the imminent eviction of extraterrestrials from a pathetic shantytown (called District 9). The creatures, it turns out, have been on Earth for years, having arrived sickly and starving. Initially received by humans with compassion and care, the aliens are now mired in blighted conditions typical of long-term refugee camps unwanted by a hostile, host society. With the creatures' care contracted out to a for-profit corporation, the shantytown has become a violent slum. The aliens sift through massive piles of junk while their minders secretly research weapons technology that arrived on the visitors' spacecraft. Against this backdrop is a more personal story about a bureaucrat named Wikus (Sharlto Copley) who is accidentally exposed to a DNA-altering substance. As he begins metamorphosing into one of the creatures, Wikus goes on the run from scientists who want to harvest his evolving, new parts and aliens who see him as a threat. When he pairs up with an extraterrestrial secretly planning an escape from Earth, however, what should be a fascinating relationship story becomes a series of firefights and explosions. Nuance is lost to numbing violence, and the more interesting potential of the film is obscured. Yet, for a while District 9 is a powerful movie with a unique tale to tell. Seamless special effects alone are worth seeing: the (often brutal) exchanges between alien and human are breathtaking. --Tom Keogh
Sci-fi based on the short film, 'Alive in Jo'berg' (2005), about the tense relationship that exisits between a group of aliens who have been living on earth for 30 years and the humans who have been trying to keep them segregated and under their control. The aliens live in a place called District 9 in South Africa in squalid conditions and are now under the supervision of Multi-National United (MNU), a company who are solely interested in exploiting the aliens' superior technology to make money. However, the only way of getting the extra-terrestrial technology to work is by using alien DNA, so when MNU worker Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) becomes infected with a DNA altering disease, giving him alien DNA, he becomes a very desirable commodity. Realising he is alone and in serious danger, and as relations between the aliens and humans intensify, van der Merwe must enter District 9 to escape.