(Four out of five stars)
Rated R/112 min.
Here’s a late summer surprise—an exciting, strangely moving tale of the evil that men do…to aliens. The story isn’t terribly original but the approach is: a spaceship filled with thousands of large, disgusting extraterrestrials lands in Johannesburg, for reasons having more to do with a broken vehicle than wanting to make contact. Rather than offering a warm welcome, humans immediately imprison, exploit and terrorize the “prawns.” The film, shot in documentary style, captures a particularly eventful day in the life of a government employee (Sharlto Copely) who enthusiastically evicts hundreds of aliens from their poverty stricken homes.
The prawns themselves resemble giant, jittery cockroaches, which makes them easy for the audience to initially loathe. It’s the miracle of the movie that, by the end, not only are the creatures strangely sympathetic, you find yourself emotionally engaged by two of them.
Much has been made of the film’s historical metaphors—the imagery of downcast aliens, living in slums and being harassed and murdered by oppressive police bears an obvious resemblance to apartheid-era South Africa. Yet the material is more universal than that; the story is a potent reminder of man’s frequent inhumanity.
Many scenes depicting the violent lifestyles of the prawns are gag-inducing. But if you’re not too squeamish, you’ll be surprised just how engaging this socially conscious sci-fi is.
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