I almost split in the first 20 minutes or so because the main character was just so incredibly annoying. I am glad I stayed.
Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is a petty, brutal bureaucrat, who is in over his head. The movie uses a fake documentary style to let us know that something has happened to him, but we don’t know what. It could be anything, considering the state of the world: For 20 years, aliens have been stranded on earth and forced to live like savages in a hastily constructed camp outside of Johannesburg.
You can’t see a ghetto outside Johannesburg or shots of signage restricting alien access to retail establishments without making some uncomfortable political associations, but the movie is surprisingly light handed here. No cheap moralizing or preaching.
Instead of allegory, this movie offers a character study. And what a character: Wikus is so unlikeable, it’s almost a pleasure to watch him squirm as the story unfolds. I felt my allegiance toward him change as he refuses to give up, despite how hopeless his situation becomes. The second half of the movie is a full on action flick, but it pleases me to no end that Wikus never really learns how to fight effectively. He fires his ray gun over his shoulder with his eyes screwed shut. At the end, he falls to his knees at the feet of a merciless warrior who has been a thorn in Wikus’ side from the start. He is the consummate weakling everyman, blundering forward hoping for a bit of good luck.