Friday, December 30, 2011

Gareth Edwards' "Monsters" Not Like Other Monster Flicks

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 108 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Monsters (2010)
Running time: 94 minutes (1 hour, 34 minutes)
MPAA – R for language
PRODUCERS: Allan Niblo and James Richardson
EDITORS: Colin Goudie
COMPOSER: Jon Hopkins
BAFTA nominee


Starring: Scoot McNairy Whitney Able, and Mario Zuniga Benavides

Monsters is a 2011 British science fiction film and quasi-monster movie. It is the debut feature film of Gareth Edwards, who wrote, directed, and shot Monsters. A cinematic one-man-army and DIY filmmaker, Edwards also created the film’s special effects.

Monsters opens six years after NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. The agency sent a probe to collect samples, but upon re-entry, the probe crashed in Mexico. Now, a huge swath of northern Mexico near the border of the United States is quarantined as the “INFECTED ZONE” because a new alien life form began to appear in this region. The U.S. and Mexican militaries struggle to contain the tentacled creatures in the infected zone.

The film focuses on Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), a young American photojournalist, who travels about Mexico taking pictures of the creatures and the aftermath of their appearances. Kaulder’s employers send him to a Mexican hospital to find Samantha “Sam” Wynden (Whitney Able), an American injured during a creature attack. Sam turns out to be the daughter of Kaulder’s boss, a wealthy media mogul, and Sam’s father insists that Kaulder escort her back to the United States. However, circumstances force the couple into a more dangerous trip than either imagined.

Monsters looks like a low-budget movie compared to most sci-fi alien invasion movies, but Monsters is not competing with movies like Independence Day (1996) or even with classic black and white B-movie monster flicks. Monsters is essentially an allegorical road movie about the state of the environment and about First World nations waging war on Third World nations. Without preaching, writer/director Gareth Edwards uses clean imagery which conveys potent symbolism concerning our current state of affairs.

Actors Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able were dating at the time they were shooting Monsters, which likely contributed to the absorbing screen chemistry they show here. [They are now married.] Their naturalistic performances are pitch perfect for this movie’s message about mankind’s current situation.

Edwards presents some potent images and effective scenes throughout this film, especially in the last act when Kaulder and Sam enter a post-disaster American small town. In the film, the area was damaged by a creature, but I’m guessing that in the real world, this is an American neighborhood, post-hurricane or other natural disaster. This point in the narrative affirms that for a science fiction monster movie, Monsters is a surprisingly human story.

7 of 10

2011 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer” (Gareth Edwards – Director/Writer)

Friday, December 30, 2011

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