The last few years have been great for the science fiction genre. And while Avatar has had the most success (and one might argue it's more of an adventure/epic), District 9 may have redefined the modern scifi film.
I've been trying to write a short synopsis of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but it's not easy to boil down this movie to just a few sentences, so I'll let IMDb do it for me:
In 1982, a massive star ship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed "The Prawns," appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years later, the initial welcome by the human population has faded. The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarized ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor. In 2010, the munitions corporation, Multi-National United, is contracted to forcibly evict the population with operative Wikus van der Merwe in charge.
District 9 is almost 2 different movies telling the two halves of one story. The first part of the film is told in mockumentary style, focusing on the eviction of the Prawns. Before you know it, the mockumentary "feel" is completely gone, and you're in the midst of a full-blown, action scifi. Once the action starts, it does not let up for a second. District 9 is quite possibly the most intense film I've had the pleasure of seeing; I felt both physically and mentally drained coming out of the theater.
If you read my review on The Hurt Locker, you know I think having a good protagonist is key. This is especially true of District 9, as nearly every scene of the movie centers around Wikus. We see the character in his comfort zone, at his best, and boy do we see him at his worst. We see and feel every moment of action through Wikus, and it is quite the experience.
It's a shame this movie was a bit overlooked at the Oscars this year, particularly the effort put into the role of Mikus van de Merwe by Sharlto Copley. Still, it was nominated for Best Picture, and that's a big step towards the scifi genre being taken more seriously by both critics and audiences. It's pretty obvious at this point that I recommend you watch this movie (now, if at all possible) and I suggest you find a seat with a comfortable edge.