District 9 (2009)
I can’t believe I forgot to review this some how. The sleeper hit of the summer, District 9 is an intelligent, and rather obvious, apartheid metaphor, and a grandly executed action thriller with a strong moral compass. Aliens crammed into ghettos and being mistreated and abused? Sounds like Alien Nation to those with longer memories, however, writer/director Neill Blomkamp forges a docu-drama that manages to be bristling with ethical questions and kick-ass action. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in all the excitement, so much so that I was trying to will the characters onscreen to take certain precautions. Blomkamp manages to take shots at some easy targets, like shady corporations and mercenaries, but that doesn’t make the movie any less affecting. The movie belongs to actor Sharlto Copley, who begins the film as a dithering bureaucrat and ends as a truly unlikely action hero, and you buy every single step of this man’s satisfying emotional arc. While the Academy is picky when it comes to genre films, Copley deserves Oscar consideration; I haven’t seen a more compelling performance by an actor all year. The special effects are astounding, and they were accomplished on a scant budget of 30 million, which is probably what Transformers 2 spent on one explosion. District 9 makes you feel that movies can still surprise you, as long as we have visionary, intelligent life working outside the studio system.
Nate’s Grade: A