Six years after a NASA probe crashes over Mexico with samples of extraterrestrial life, photojournalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is in the danger zone. But his assignment is rapidly changed when he is ordered to escort his boss' shaken daughter Sam (Whitney Able) through the dangerous infected zone to the safety of the US border, away from the huge alien creatures growing there.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like the alien monsters of the film, Monsters is a hybrid of adventure, sci-fi and creature feature, with mood being as crucial as the creatures themselves. It's eerie rather than scary and the impetus is on the moment rather than in a resolution. The rugged Mexican landscape and isolated settings form the backdrop to the action, as a photo journalist plays guide and protector to his publishing magnate boss's daughter. With its improvised dialogue and non-professional actors to act as props to the two leads, writer director Gareth Edwards' vision is unusual in that he allows the locations to propel the story arc. The result is interesting rather than complete, although in many ways the adventure that bonds the two strangers is successful by its distinctive style.
In the first few sequences, the premise of the film's backdrop is established as giant flying squids demonstrate their devastating strength and powers. Aliens have come to earth aboard a crashed NASA space probe some six years previously; the creatures that work their chaos at night have become dictators of what is known as The Infected Zone. With long tentacles demolishing everything around them, they roar like lions fused with the high pitched wails of dolphins. Good use is made of low-budget special effects.
Then we meet the film's protagonist, Scoot McNairy's Andrew Kaulder, who makes his living by documenting tragedy through the lens of his camera. We understand straight away what he is doing here. Less clear is why Sam (Whitney Able) has placed herself in a precarious situation, although we sense the heavy weight of the rock on her left ring finger has prompted her to re-evaluate her life. So it seems apt that rocky is how the relationship between the two begins before romance beckons beyond the overland travel, dirt roads, riverboats and spectacular dawn sunrises.
Reportedly a real-life couple at the time of shooting, McNairy and Able both deliver, although it is Able who especially makes her mark with an appealing natural presence. The amigos with guns and other locals bring authenticity to the mix as Andrew and Sam bond and journey together in Edwards' innovative road movie with an apocalyptic twist.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perhaps unwittingly, Gareth Edwards's dream of making a DIY effects film with alien lifeforms and a sci-fi genre tag has turned into something with deeper meaning about humanity. I say this tentatively because the message is a little garbled and the intent is vague, but if you consider the title and the content, you are more or less driven to that conclusion.
Monsters is a title that conjures up ... monsters; but Edwards underplays the alien creatures (we see glimpses mostly) and the film's resolution implicates humanity as the real monsters. But I don't want to get too bogged down in this argument because the film has many interesting elements, notably some excellent, opportunistically captured images which are cleverly edited into the narrative. Opportunistically because Edwards (himself the cameraman) went about his low budget task with open eyes, to use whatever was around that would meet his needs. Likewise the CGI work, executed on his laptop.
But then he's a multi-award winning and highly respected visual effects creator who wanted to make his feature debut on his own terms. And he has.
Rusted old tanks, large ruined buildings, general wreckage and beautiful landscapes all play a role in setting us down in a Mexico that's used to not only its poverty but its state of new normality, in which the everyday concerns about the extraterrestrials has become part of life.
Love story and road movie are fused into this hybrid, with faint notes of post apocalyptic fables; and all the elements are handled with great restraint. Real life couple Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy are excellent as the Americans in a foreign land, aliens themselves, seeking the help of the locals to get away. But it's unlike any usual escape movie or road movie, or indeed any usual romance. Sam is engaged, Andrew has a young son from an earlier liaison and the two of them are thrown together in odd circumstances. (That's not so original, but it works well, thanks to excellent direction and effectively improvised dialogue.)
The tension is maintained pretty well throughout, and when it dips, it's for a reason; either to deepen our understanding of the relationship or to revel in the setting and the wonderfully captured Mexican locals - young and old alike. In all, Monsters is a brave and challenging film with much to offer the discerning film lover, hardly predictable and inventively made.
Published April 7, 2011
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MONSTERS: DVD (M)
CAST: Whitney Able, Scoot McNairy
PRODUCER: Allan Niblo, James Richardson
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
SCRIPT: Gareth Edwards
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gareth Edwards
EDITOR: Colin Goudie
MUSIC: Jon Hopkins
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 25, 2010
SPECIAL FEATURES: .
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: April 6, 2011