Over twenty years ago, aliens made first contact with Earth. Humans waited for the hostile attack, or the giant advances in technology. Neither came. Instead, the aliens were refugees, the last survivors of their home world. The creatures were set up in a makeshift home in South Africa`s District 9 as the world`s nations argued over what to do with them.
Now, patience over the alien situation has run out. Control over the aliens has been contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company uninterested in the aliens` welfare – they will receive tremendous profits if they can make the aliens` awesome weaponry work. So far, they have failed; activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.
The tension between the aliens and the humans comes to a head when an MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts a mysterious virus that begins changing his DNA. Wikus quickly becomes the most hunted man in the world, as well as the most valuable – he is the key to unlocking the secrets of alien technology. Ostracized and friendless, there is only one place left for him to hide: District 9.
The aliens are not coming. They are already here and that too for 20 long years. And now they have been asked to leave. Will they?
Welcome to the land of Johannesburg, where a spaceship the size of 20 football fields had hung in mid-air a couple of decades back courtesy a small part that fell down on the earth. Now this could well be a 3,000 sq. ft. apartment but that`s not the only space that aliens end up occupying on earth.
In fact, in the years gone by, the lands pretty much turns into a slum with close to two million alien inhabitants cramped in a below poverty line settlement termed District 9.
As the voiceover says, where there is slum, there would be crime. There are petty fights amongst the aliens over food and other rudimentary items. Where it`s a matter of survival of the fittest, gang lords too occupy the same space. Nigerians set up their own underworld in this alien world and they are a one stop shop for arms, food and even inter-racial prostitutes.
Aliens too aren`t robotic creatures but made of flesh and blood with creepy faces that remind you of the characters in The Pirates of the Caribbean series. While most of them are rather comfortable in their new home, the locals are unhappy with the rise in crime.
The government eventually decides to move all aliens 200 km outside the city. A civilian (Sharlto Copley) is the man in charge of the entire operation and he is naturally ecstatic with this newfound assignment of shifting the aliens to District 10.
But the task turns out to be disastrous as Sharlto becomes an accident victim, hence resulting in alien traits developing within him.
Thankfully, District 9 doesn`t have the usual technical razzmatazz that is generally associated with a typical Hollywood sci-fi movie. There aren`t any striking frames filled with SFX marvels occupying every pixel of the big screen. There aren`t any out of the world machinery or gadgetry resulting in mindless action. Also, the characters are quite real - whether it is the humans or the aliens.
District 9 has an engrossing beginning as it follows a documentary style narration for as long as 15-20 minutes. The context is set and people from all walks of life -politicians, news readers, environmentalists and cops - all come together to give a blow-by-blow account of the actual events that unfolded.
Sharlto getting into the ghetto, the conversation with the aliens, the government diktats, poverty, gang lords, media manipulation, medical experiments, genetic mutation, gun shots, explosions, a mission close to be accomplished and a new found relationship - all these come together and make District 9 a fast-paced drive.
But it can`t really be termed as an adrenalin pumping affair. Instead, it`s an emotional journey of Sharlto, who desperately wants to let go of his alien traits even though they could lend him immense power.
District 9 not just opens a new chapter in the making of sci-fi films, it is also unpretentious in leaving not just a door but an entire district wide open for making a sequel as the drama shifts to District 10.