Reviewbr> "Doesn't that kind of bother you, that you need something bad to happen to profit from it?" - Samantha Wynden
Six years ago life was discovered in the far reaches of the solar system. A NASA probe returning with samples unfortunately broke up over Northern Mexico infecting a swath of land from right on the U.S border to approx. middle Mexico. Before you can say "holy borrowing from the script of Night of the Living Dead Batman", there has been an outbreak of alien life forms in the area leading the U.S and Mexican authorities to quarantining Northern Mexico. This involved erecting huge walls to contain the giant creatures evolving in the area, and putting both Countries on pretty much a war footing against the alien incursion.
Enter Photo-Journalist Andrew Kaulder who has scored a break and is down in Mexico documenting the effects of the outbreak on the local infrastructure and people. He believes he will have it made in the shade when his photos hit his State side news agency. Unfortunately for Andrew things don't go to plan as he receives orders from his Boss to pick up the Boss' daughter who was injured in a creature attack, and whom Andrew needs to escort back to the States. The couple make their way to the coast where they pay an exorbitant amount of money to get on-board a ferry bound the next morning for the U.S. Andrew, who at this stage I was dubbing "Lucky", naturally picks up some local girl and spends the night with her, only to find she has scarped the next morning with the passports and cash. With very little option our Couple decided on taking a dangerous trek through the infected zone, risking desperados and of course giant alien monsters. What awaits the couple out in the ravaged wastelands?
I guess for a lot of people Monsters will come as something of a surprise as it doesn't deliver the promised standard alien invasion fare they may have been expecting. The whole giant alien thing pretty much is background flavour to a movie that is more a mix of road, romance, and definitely drama. Monsters is about the two shot leads not some action flick that shows U.S forces battling invaders from the stars. The giant aliens do play a part, but it's surprisingly restricted to more a deus ex machine role than being front and center as Director/Writer Gareth Edwards skilful works his character development to the backdrop of decaying urban scapes and lush jungles. While there are a fair amount of comparisons of Monsters to of all things the infantile Cloverfield, a better comparison would be to Francis Ford Coppola's seminal Apocalypse Now. Both movies feature characters journeying to self-discovery through a quest, yes pretty much in the Middle Ages style, and both movies deal with characters entering the heart of darkness, and finding truths about the situation that aren't apparent to their masters. Not a bad effort on the part of Director Edwards, who made the movie for a reported $14k and who relied on discovering shooting locations as the movie was filmed! Yes a lot of impromptu dialogue and a lot of local flavour by actual locals rather than Casting agency choices. There's a sort of ferocious feel of realism in this movie that is needed to match the heavy themes being sent your way. If this sort of stuff doesn't appeal to you, and judging by the internet it doesn't to the normal brain dead teen, then go hire Independence Day instead, that would be more your speed to be honest. Monsters is one serious movie, and it isn't apologetic in being so.
What is noticeable about Monsters immediately is the stunning visuals the small team of film makers, apparently Edwards and one other crew member, created using pretty much the local Central American locations. There's a District 9 aesthetic in the deployment of signs etc to highlight the "infected zone", but other than a few props most additional flavour elements needed for the movie were added in post-production by Edwards and apparently his trusted home computer. What we end up with are vivid and lush backgrounds, the real feeling we are in a war zone, and more local atmosphere than you can poke a carnivale at. The movie is sumptuous to look at, dragging even Mrs J, notorious for not watching dark genre outings, into the developing plot lines. Director Edwards captures the dusty towns, jungles, and desert locations to perfection which had me high fiving my imaginary woodland friends.
Director Edwards spent $14,000 making a movie that looked like $5 million had been spent on it. Quite the acheivement given the current excesses in Boredwood
Interestingly another attack the movie has been receiving is around the jungles lapping up almost to the U.S/Mexican border and a pyramid that is within eye shot of the U.S wall. Dear me people really don't like to think when threatened by a movie that isn't Boredwood simple. Perhaps the jungle itself has been affected by the alien samples, life after all also includes flora, and without banging on about it, perhaps the U.S wall is well south of the border? I certainly didn't note the Rio Grande anywhere in frame! Regardless I kind of liked the pyramid shot, it was stunning cinematography and had me all aglow with good thoughts for the movie. On a more amusing note, we're talking a movie featuring honking great alien invaders and someone has a problem with the location of a pyramid, wanting to explain your non-understanding of the movie much!
With much of the dialogue in this movie being of the impromptu kind, reminding of "food footage" movies - no Monsters isn't in that camp, viewers could be excused for losing track of what the movie is trying to do. You'll need to watch the televisions in the background to pick up on a whole bunch of pertinent information, for example the samples were retrieved from Jupiter's moon Europa, to gain an understanding of the situation our leads find themselves in. Equally you are required to listen to the leads interaction to fully encompass the journey toward self-discovery being undertaken, I'm not about to spell that out kids. End of day Monsters requires audience participation, something that doesn't work for those who want everything neon sign posted and Boredwood cookie cutter simple.
While the movie is more focused on the human duo crossing the "infected zone" we do get some creature feature to be dealing with. Director Edwards slowly unveils his designs, well integrated into the frames putting many larger funded movies to shame, with a scene toward the end of the movie being almost beautiful in its concept of the aliens. Once again go into the movie with no preconceptions and you won't come away disappointed. There are a couple of alien "attacks" breaking up the drama, but these are plot advancement devices rather than being the focus.
Leads Scoot McNairy (Andrew Kaulder) and Whitney Able (Samantha Wynden) carry the movie well and have the chemistry happening between them, which is just as well as they are partners in real life as well. McNairy handles his role of journalist trying to hold things together well, I got a real Ernest Hemmingway vibe from the character, while Able devours her role of rich girl questioning her pre-ordained life path. It's stirring stuff that will have the Ladies fully in tissue mode as we find out the meaning of the opening and closing scenes. Two thumbs up to both Actors, they rocked this one, hope to see them in something else sooner rather than later.
I got Monsters sent my way in a three movie review request and immediately had to see why some people were raving about this film. I didn't get quite what I expected, guess I was thinking more along the lines of "attack of the giant aliens versus U.S firepower", but I did get one hell of a better movie than I was expecting. Monsters takes a series of classic serious movie tropes and wraps them in a dark genre blanket to deliver a simply fantastic time for anyone prepared to go to the effort of watching the drama unfold. I was stunned and am still giving a standard ovation to Gareth Edwards' achievements with the movie. Full recommendation to more mature readers and to younger readers prepared to put in the effort to understand what is being shown on the screen. I'm going to come right out and say it, best SciFi movie since District 9 knocked our socks off!
Clearly the movie is now an option via DVD or BD, so dial on in there kids. Downunder Asylum are across the movie with some decent extras and stunning artwork. I would expect to pay around the $12 mark for the movie, or simply go hire a copy.