Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monsters (2010)

Overall Rating: 7.50/10

A broken society can make even the simplest task seem inaccessible. You add to that a continent overrun by monsters, and you're likely to find that task nearly insurmountable. The 2010 low-budget sci-fi drama Monsters examines just that very situation. Teetering on the edge of dystopia, Mexico's alien invasion becomes the focal point where the future of humanity may weigh in the balance.

Navigating a world of aliens and alienated, Samantha (Whitney Able) and Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) must traverse the infected zone in the hope of getting back home to America. In doing so they bear witness to the brutal inner turmoil of a planet learning to adapt. Along the way they are also privy to some of the hidden beauties one might find in a world if they look. Something as simple as alien and plant life finding a middle ground, co-existing in a land of conflicting needs, can supply elements of hope and fear.

Able and McNairy handle the demanding task of being our eyes and ears, guiding us into this world, without hesitation or reproach. As these character begin to understand the new world in which they live, so do we. At the same time they also hold onto the world as they know it. We learn about their background through casual conversations during lull moments along their journey. Their conflicting traits of cynicism and optimism, sarcasm and frustration, help keep viewers engaged, without needing to constantly resort to action.

Director Gareth Edwards shows great talent in piecing together the film, despite a limited shooting budget, and making it authentic. The fictional world feels real because there are relatable components. Characters you could imagine living down the street from you or trying to prosper in a mundane environment, invite you in to their situation. You understand their plight because in many ways it's not as different as you might think. People trying to escape unwanted situations, foreign presences trying to change the environment, and amidst it all humans seeking to understand their place.

Going in with the knowledge that it's as much a drama as it is a science fiction or action film is crucial to understanding the direction it takes. Monsters relies on the tension derived from a foreboding nature. It also relies on human interaction, and basic human nature. We see character's who try to help each other out and those who seek only to prosper from others failures. By contrast we see aliens who maraud the world and aliens who study it.

At times I felt that Monster reached more than it needed to in terms of character development. Samantha and Kaulder's evolving relationship felt generic and faintly founded. The ending, which ties the film together, seemed like a bad *nudge nudge* moment, trying to get audiences rushing for a rewind button. Edwards' tale of conflicting worlds thrives on the journey, the different personality types it takes to survive, and the mysterious world. Monsters is as much about exposing an alien world as it is about a human one.

Film Credits:
Written and Directed by: Gareth Edwards

4 better thoughts:

Aiden R. said...

Good review, man. Itching to see this.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good review. I felt the ending was a good climax to the character's interaction - and how going through such an experience would bring two people closer together. What the director achieved with next to no budget is incredible.

simoncolumb said...

i have to say, the ending when i watched it felt less important. i didn't leave the cinema thinking "wow", i thought more about everything else and the sexytime the monsters had.

Univarn - what about Jurassic Park? yeah? you see the link?? anyone? [i feel very alone on this one...]


Univarn said...

@Aiden: Hope you enjoy it!

@AlexJ: *SPOILERS* I fully understand how going through an experience like that would bring two people closer - but would it bring them to 'love' one another and for her to not want to be with her fiance? (as she implied towards the end) I wasn't fully sold on that.

@Simon Jurassic Park, now that you mention it I can see the link there. Especially in the abstract way both look on the world - habitation vs. human control

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