15 cert, 118 min. Dir Gareth Edwards; starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able. The Honest review of Gareth Edwards 2010 film Monsters which was his first film. This low budget sci-fi alien invasion movie was notable for it’s less is more approach. While it was not universally acclaimed by critics, it shows how the creation of atmosphere can frame a film towards an interesting and enjoyable adventure.
Gareth Edwards first film shows how you can make a small budget go a long way. The story does have an obvious political edge, in particular towards immigration. This was probably not a good idea, it is better to focus on a good story and characters then preach or promote political ideas. This film however does focus on relationships and the value of friendship in the modern world. There are only two main characters in the whole of the movie and the story focuses on their interactions. While the world around them struggles to deal with the alien invasion, they at times seem almost oblivious.
The earth has been contaminated by species from another world. This has led to the quarantine of a large area of Central Mexico. A massive wall provides security on the US side and keeps the problem located in Mexico. The story mainly revolves around photojournalist Kaulder, played by Scoot McNairy. While on an assignment he is forced to locate and bring the daughter of his boss back to the border and on to the US. In effect, this begins a road movie with some romance combined with a little alien invasion scenario.
This is the most unusual part of this Sci-fi/Horror movie. The events of the alien occupation are played almost as a side issue. We get brief glimpses on Tv, many images of damaged buildings and military build up but most of the action is distant and unseen. The initial meeting of the two characters and their slowly maturing interest in each other takes time. There is no rush and the direction are kind and unassuming. The urgency to get the boss’s daughter Samantha played by Whitney Able, is diminished as they get to know each other.
The special effects and the practical elements are of the tell don’t show variety and leave much to the imagination. The film is all the better for it. The aliens are shown in glimpses, in particularly in the opening scene where US Army deals with a Monster on the loose. The scene is at night and is witnessed through night vision goggles. There is much to leave up to the viewers imagination. Other scenes such as a brief stop in the dangerous jungle, feature only loud alien screeches or calls and we wonder what is happening and what do the look like. Other scenes see brief sightings and the aftermath of an attack.
on the loose. The scene is at night and is witnessed through night vision goggles. There is much to leave up to the viewers imagination. Other scenes such as a brief stop in the dangerous jungle, feature only loud alien screeches or calls and we wonder what is happening and what do the look like. Other scenes see brief sightings and the aftermath of an attack.
This film is in effect, is a long dangerous journey. And the development of the relationship between Kaulder and Sam grows as this journey proceeds. They meet and interact with several characters along the way, notably a kindly Mexican family who take them in overnight. The value and meaning of life and of are observed and the two begin to realise that they have shared something special between them.
While this film is far from perfect. The acting is a little hit and miss, especially from Able. McNariy’s performance makes up for this as his character arc comes full circle, from cynical seen it all, to hopeful and loving. Special mention must go out to director Edwards, despite Rogue One not being to everyone’s taste this film showed what he can achieve and with the right project he can create something great.
There are several other points which we discover along the journey. The aliens may not be as hostile as first thought. For instance, the aliens will not attack unless first provoked, and the fear may be unnecessary. The fear of what one does not understand takes a hold, and the scene where two creatures interact at the end seems to bear this out.
The entire movie was shot with a single camera on location. Just a couple of actors and a very limited crew create a memorable film. Despite what the critics say and the lack of interest by general audiences, this is a very interesting film with much to say about the value of love and relationships.