Thursday, February 10, 2011

Monsters (2010) review

Overall verdict: 8/10

The Good: awesome cast chemistry, impressive visuals despite low budget, solid emotional core, very effecting directing,

The Bad:policital and social commentary ineffectively conveyed, slow moving plot,

Current Availability Status: Coming soon to DVD and blu-ray

The one thing worse than a misleading movie trailer that gives one false expectations, is a misleading movie title.

For a movie entitled "Monsters", there is VERY LITTLE monster appearances. There does not even seem to be a hidden second meaning in the title (a smarter man would make a movie titled "Monsters" and have it refer to the monstrous nature of humans who mete out atrocities on one another.). Therefore, calling this a monster film with a hidden social commentary is stretching it at best. Here is a human interaction drama of two strangers thrown together by unforeseen circumstances, facing unknown dangers against the backdrop of a world at constant war with a race of giant alien squid creatures.

Six years have passed since a NASA space probe brought alien life to earth. The aliens have been quarantined to an "Infected Zone" between Mexico and USA. Into this world comes news photographer Andrew Kaudler who is tasked to safely bring his employer's daughter, Samantha Wynden across the Mexican border back to USA. A series of mishaps leaves them with only the option of traveling through the monster infested zone where danger lurks within the deep jungles. So in what can only be described as a homage to Jurassic Park and Apocalypse Now, the duo take a perilous journey upriver into the heart of the Infected Zone.

Apparently shot on a shoestring budget of barely half a million dollars, "Monsters" would feel like a Discovery Channel travelogue if it were not for the amazing chemistry between the two core characters. This very realistic interplay as the two characters get to learn about each other saves this film from becoming just another road trip flick.

Director Gareth Edwards has a keen talent for maintaining a palpable sense of tension and danger in slower scenes that would otherwise be considered boring in less expert hands. Allowing the camera to linger on a scene while the sound fades until only the haunting musical score is audible serves to add a great emotional impact to such scenes. Edwards uses a very "documentary" style of filming that revels in properly fleshing out the sorry state of a world in constant fear of the unknown and border towns who live in the shadow of death; again, much like a travelogue. There are some hints of jabbing at American immigration policies, USA's reliance on high tech warfare to solve international problems and the intolerance toward "alien" immigrants but these are only hinted at and barely given emphasis. Stuff like "District 9" handled those themes a lot better.

Do not expect a movie the likes of Cloverfield or Godzilla when going to watch "Monsters". It is less like a monster movie and more like a very satisfying, emotional human drama about an unlikely couple bonded together by the desire to return home to their loved ones. We get a look ingo their anguish, their sorrow, their hopes and dreams that they go through along the way. Here is a showcase of the very best of what can be achieved in an independent film, easily besting many of its bigger budgeted counterparts.

(Oh, and there are giant enemy squid creatures conveniently appearing only in murky night time darkness to conceal the low budget CGI rendering.)

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if an independent film filled with human drama, tension and a character centered story are your cup of tea
Avoid it: if you are expecting some big action packed monster mash like Godzilla or alien invasions like Independence Day.

Entertainment: B
Story: A-
Acting: A
Characters: A
Replay value: B
"Brains": B-

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