You thought illegal aliens were bad, what about actual aliens?!?
Six years ago a NASA space probe crashed to earth with a shipload of alien stowaways on board – in the time since, a massive section of the Mexico-US boarder has been fenced off and is now quarantined as an ‘infected zone’. Photojournalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is keen to get pictures of the creatures, but when he’s tasked with getting his boss’s daughter (Whitney Able) back to the US, a one-day trip turns into a surprising journey.
I have to give a lot of credit to director Gareth Edwards, who practically made this film for only $500,000 dollars and does a pretty damn good job with it. Actually, it’s probably a lot better than half of the big, studio flicks that come out every month and have about 20 times the budget and still can’t deliver. Take that Hollywood!
A huge problem with this flick that people may have here is that the title and premise has you thinking that you’re going to get plenty of alien action, filled with space ships, ray guns, universal translators, and all of that other crazy alien shit we see but that isn’t the case we have here. In fact, it’s more of an “Adults Only” sci-fi flick (not in that type of way you pervs) and is a lot more character-driven than you would expect, which was a nice touch here. It was sort of like we were joining these two peeps on the road trip from hell taking place in a future that isn’t as destructive as you would think with a whole bunch of aliens constantly running around, instead, it just looks like a wasteland that is still itching for order and control without Edwards ever shoving it in our face that something catastrophic happened here.
Edwards also did a great job of shooting on location, using actual locals that he would find off the streets for the parts, and add in the CGI later. It gave the film this real authenticity where it seems like everything is actually happening right in front of our eyes, and even though we all know it’s not real and this will probably never ever happen, it still feels like a snapshot of what our world could come to in the near future. I mean the whole film is one big metaphor for illegal immigration, so it sort of does make sense after all. Basically, give this Edwards guy a whole bunch of moolah and let him do whatever the hell he wants to do with it because the guy can deliver a lot more than certain directors out there like Roland Emmerich. However, I did like Anonymous, so I can’t knock on the guy too much.
For some odd reason though, as much as I liked and can give a lot of credit to Edwards for his low-budget film-making, I couldn’t help but feel that it took a lot away from the story as well. The obstacles that Edwards puts in here, weren’t enough to actually leave a mark on me, and yes, I did crave a lot more action than this film delivered with. I know, I know I should be shamed about this but I wanted more alien action and shenanigans because it would have really kept more of my interest when the film started to just really linger on and on with these two peeps walking, talking, and sometimes, running. Definitely don’t go into this expecting an Independence Day-like alien flick or else you’ll be left more pissed off than piss happy.
I also may seem like sort of a dick for talking ish about this other element of the flick, but I just have to go with it. I don’t know what it was here that bothered me but almost every time a CG helicopter came up in the flick, whether it was just roaming around or not, I was taken out of this film more and more. They seemed to pop-up in the sky almost every 15 minutes and looked so incredibly fake, whereas everything else was pretty realistic looking and fit well with the rest of the area. I don’t know what it was about these copters but they just seemed so goofy for this type of a serious story.
Because I bought most of the world that Edwards put us in, I actually bought a lot of the characters and feared for their safety as well. Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able are two people that I have never seen before in my life, but both do pretty good jobs of playing these two accidental tourists, Andrew and Samantha. McNairy is good in this a-hole role where he started to peel away his emotions, layer by layer, whereas Whitney, was also very good playing the vulnerable and scared girl role as well. Both had great chemistry together, which they should have because they’re a freakin’ married couple, and both should added a lot more to their scenes, where it’s just the two of them talking basically, a lot more than I expected. No other notable names, other than these two and that’s pretty much all we need.
Consensus: Though it’s not what every sci-fi movie aficionado would like, Monsters is still an impressive debut flick from Gareth Edwards who gives a very original movie with great chemistry between the leads, a story that you care for, and some impressive, low-budget special effects. Hope to see this guy more often!