This film stunned me. I didn't expect much from District 9, except to be entertained by an unusual twist in the premise ... the aliens who landed on Earth became the prisoners.
Neill Blomkamp created a poignant social commentary. South Africa is no stranger to problems with race relations. Only in their recent history was the South African apartheid abolished, so there are direct similarities to the South African oppression as well as more barbaric, Nazi-esque resemblances. The director suggests that human nature is far more parasitic than the shrimp-like humanoids who found their misfortune by entering our atmosphere.
South African turmoil, post-apartheid, is also a major theme. There is much unrest in the country's current times. Blomkamp detailed the odd pairings of the "Prawn" (the shrimp-like humanoids) in a camp, living among displaced Nigerians. According to Blomkamp, the South Africans of all colors are rattled by the huge influx of immigrants over the last few years, and their aversion to the Prawn and all other outsiders is clearly detailed. Also, South Africa appears to have somewhat of a wild-west business atmosphere, as a burgeoning private defense industry has dominated the country's GDP.
Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) works for the MNU (Multi-National United), a private company heavily invested in advanced weaponry design and production. MNU appoints Wilkus to lead the operation to transfer the alien camp, aka "District 9," to a new facility many miles outside the city of Johannesburg. The camp is a heavily-militarized compound whose inhabitants have turned into a sprawling shanty town complete with tin houses and garbage-caked streets.
During the first day, Wilkus is infected by a fluid from an unfamiliar Prawn device. The second act becomes a quest to find a cure so he can return to his wife as soon as possible. Along the way, he battles the MNU, the Prawns, and the Nigerian gang. He stumbles upon a more-intelligent Prawn named Christopher Johnson, who happens to be the creator of the device which infected Wilkus. From there, the two develop an understanding of each other as they work together to re-obtain the device, which happened to be the key to curing Wilkus and helping the Prawn leave Earth.
The film's budget ran to only $30 million dollars, which amazes me because it looks every bit as amazing as your standard big-budget Hollywood film. The production companies did a nice job of creating and animating the Prawn. Almost all of the scenes with the aliens are the work of CGI, and what's great is that they appear naturally, instead of the contrast one normally gets between live action and CGI, especially with so many digitally-drawn characters.
Blomkamp appears to have a great career ahead of him. It's amazing that this is one of his earliest efforts. Go out and enjoy this wonderful late-summer gem.