Monsters -- Imaginative Indie Sci-fi

                           The total production cost for Gareth Edwards feature debut "Monsters" (2010) was said to be around, $20,000. For a movie that involves a bunch of giant aliens that is very cheap. With a gritty, handheld, verity style, the movie makes a a devastating emotional impact -- provided, if you happen to register the little details. The financial difficulties is overwhelmed by making this more of a road trip/character story than a traditional monster movie. So, don't look for big scale alien action sequences. It is more or less, a sci-fi allegory with with human-level drama that just happens to take place in the shadow of giant beasts.

                            "Monsters" opens with a loud night-vision firefight between a jeep full of enthusiastic soldiers and a gigantic extraterrestrial beast. The story is set in 2015, and thanks to NASA space probe, which has crashed, leaving part of Mexico “infected” with rapidly-breeding, hostile alien life.These aliens looks like a giant octopus -- walks on their tentacles— and have been quarantined from the United States by a massive border fence. Amidst this chaos lives photojournalist Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), an American  documenting the post-invasion ruins. He gets an unwanted assignment from headquarters: to escort his  boss' daughter, Sam (Whitney Able), back to safety.

                             Kaulder is the absentee dad and Sam has run off from the bad engagement. There begins a distressing journey — with a tentative romance -- and little by little we find ourselves in the midst of a war-zone relationship drama. The trip also subtly provides commentary on the collateral damage of militaristic imperialism, exploitative media and immigration-themed xenophobia. 

                              Director Gareth Edwards is a CGI artist and so he has created a dystopian landscape that’s so naturalistic. The aliens are mostly kept aside, but when they do get on the screen, it's a breathtakingly lyrical moment rather than a cliched awe of roaring creatures and exploding artillery. The film was shot on locations ranging from Guatemala to Costa Rica and uses largely improvised dialogue with mostly nonprofessional actors. The dialogues are mostly unforced and seems naturalistic. Edwards's take on the alien-invasion is better than a monster-movie with the backing of a big studio. Here, the suspense exists in the way, the narrative unfolds rather than cheap pyrotechnics and eye-popping visual effects. Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able have underplayed their parts masterfully and we are invested in their survival.

                          "Monsters" is "Before Sunrise" meets "Cloverfield." It is also a little remindful of "District 9", which had a sense of humor about it, but this movie, in the end, is just bleak business. Edwards deserved his acclaim (in the indie circle) for creating this professional-looking film with consumer-grade video equipment and a four-person crew. On the whole, "Monsters" effortlessly compels and is a trip worth taking. 


Monsters -- IMDb


Anonymous said...

Good review Arun. What the movie could do with it's budget is out standing, but what it could do with it's story is even better. Not amazing, but still thrilling and interesting to watch.

Arun Kumar said...

@dtmmr, Thanks for the comment. You are right. One of the rare sci-fi movie, which depends on a imaginative story rather than loud special effects.