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District 9 (2009) Dir by Neil Blomkamp Dorian Gray (2009) Dir Oliver Parker Vue Cinema Hull

An alien spacecraft becomes stricken over 1980’s Jo’berg and  20 years after being rounded up and placed in the slum that is District 9, geeky bureaucrat Wikius Van der Merwe is charged with moving the extra terrestrials to a new camp far away from human contact.

The South African writers produce an opening that cleverly satirises the dynamics of Apartheid as the “prawns” face the daily humiliations of township life complete with exploitation and being subject to random privations based on the whims of their human neighbours. The parallels with Gaza and the West Bank are clear to see, but the film avoids being obvious or preachy and the documentary style does little to prepare the viewer for the welcome twists and turns to follow.

The pace and plot of the picture build masterfully and it is far from the film that you expect to see from the first half hour or so, and the the action sequences in the later half of the film deliver a powerful denouement.

Wikius is a superb hero. Ordinariness personified, the Civil Servant is required to deliver eviction notices on behalf of a huge multi national company acting on the orders of the UN, but like all private contractors operating in war zones morality is far from being top of the agenda and when our hero stumbles across some liquid with enormous commercial possibilities, both military and otherwise, the pretence of acting in the common interest goes out of the window and Wikius is forced to run for his life. 

Peter Jackson has overseen a gem of a picture which showcases the best themes of Sci Fi movies, those of politics and existential morality. The story leaves a possibility for a District 10. Lets hope so.

I was very impressed with Sharlto Copley as Wikius and it seems almost unbelievable that this was the 35 year olds first role having previously worked almost  exclusively on the other side of the camera. The choice to improvise the main eviction scene showcased what a fine actor, and one with a big future, Copley really is. He is due to play opposite Liam Neeson in, get this, a re make of The A Team. I kid you not. According to Wikipedia that is…..


As for Dorian Gray…. Ho hum. Lets face it you’d be hard pressed to muck up such a great story, that of Faustian themes adapted by the genius that was Oscar Wilde and the producers don’t mess it up. But there is no X factor to raise the picture into the very good rather than not bad stakes. Treading water. Adequate. Damning with faint praise? Absolutely.

But then I am totally mad about Wilde as my Mum, who is wholly responsible for my love of literature fed me his work from as an early age as I can remember starting with the magnificent children’s story The Selfish Giant and his vulnerability and amazing insight into the human soul has always inspired me, so I suppose I was a tough audience. And as it happens the only audience at this viewing.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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