Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Monsters" (2010) - Movie Review

What can “Monsters” be called? What kind of film does it bode to be and promises to be? Why is the premise of sci-fi aliens needed for a film like this? None of these can be answered because we have been attuned to a judgment before seeing a film. We have dissected the art in genres and the expectations are made and in good director that is handled well enough to provide a better film than one hoped for. But films like “Monsters” emerge out of nowhere, unheard and then makes you wonder about the process of filmgoing. Except for the title there is not much to be known about this gem and soon as the film ends there blossoms a lovable romantic film amidst this crazy science fiction.

Written, photographed and directed by Gareth Edwards this film begins with the information that a NASA space probe collecting alien life forms gets broken and spread across the US-Mexican border. The controversial border is now declared infected zone and US has built an enormous wall to protect against the creatures that manifested out of this. The film begins with a night vision footage of an army vehicle getting attacked and exploded while we see this enormous creature looming upon for attack followed by launching of an air strike. Off we go to Mexico where photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is getting ordered by his boss to escort his daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) to US.

So what starts as a story of extreme action in between these threatening creatures becomes into concentrating on the relationship on these two people. Both completely different in their background and situation. Sam is engaged and for reasons unknown she is having trouble talking with her fiance. Kaulder we learn only later that he is a single ambitious photographer and has a story of his own personal fiasco. They travel together through the roads that are less taken and forbidden but monopolized and capitalized by people who can milk more money playing dirty games and high risks. They make it to the coast without any issues as Sam can catch her ferry to US and Kaulder can return to his work of taking tragic pictures. They party up the night before the departure. Things happen that leads to miss the ferry and take the dangerous route of penetrating right through the infected zone.

Gareth Edwards takes a foreign approach to this not so foreign backdrop. The focus so much so is on these unknown creatures is about these two odd couple. Both well aware and complete. Their silent quarrels are so realistic and in a way adorable. Their romance untold in a way I have not seen in films before. They do not hold hands or enact those premeditated and molded Hollywood yearning faces. Kaulder and Sam are there at that place, in this fictitious backdrop with a not so fictitious Mexico. The people whom accompany them are nice, helping and desperate while the business running managers do their talking to extract the maximum out of the foreigners on their no option situation.

“Monsters” is not a horror film but has thrills. It is not a romantic film though it has love. There are no obligations to the audience. We are left along with these couple and the knowledge of the creatures or their behaviour is not explained to us purposefully as it is not so much useful in the current scenario. The scenario is to see these two people reach US and nothing else matters.

Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able were real life couple (now married) and I am sure that helped in modulating those untold chemistry in unforeseen places effectively. Whitney Able is the cute blond and shows a character of a strong woman struggling to contend with difficulties up with this reality and the future that awaits her in the country. McNairy portrays Kaulder as a pragmatic photojournalist and knows Sam’s hesitation in both her future life and in between them. Their communications both silent and spoken forms the basis of this film.

The closest that I can picture to people about this film is “Cloverfield” but in that film they tried to manufacture a love story out of this beautifully original formed technique into painfully overdone and executed exercise. Here the link between these two has a beautiful tone of a melody in this scary journey. There are panic moments which are very real and tragic. But the best about “Monsters” are the locations and the scenery of this foreign existence making its way through the daily affairs. There is a pain to it and the darkness of it brings up so many emotions of this possible reality.

Majority of this film was shot guerilla style with seven people crew traveling in a van and getting the locals to act and improvise. That adds the authenticity Gareth Edwards was going for. The monsters are kept at bay when it comes to projecting details of their appearance and Edwards saves it for the last. As Sam and Kaulder witness those creatures up close and personal in a perspective I am sure many would have forgotten to even perceive when these attacks happened, it opens up the audience into an unimaginable experience. With able hands in special effects from Edwards himself and a mesmerizing emotional score by Jon Hopkins we realize what Edwards was going for in it and how he combines that great feeling with a hidden tragedy to leave us smiling with sadness. After all this I still bring up the question but with admiration - What can “Monsters” be called?

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