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USA 2010
Directed by
Gareth Edwards
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars


Synopsis: Six years ago a satellite crash landed on the US/Mexico border and the spores it carried have now spawned gigantic creatures that threaten to overwhelm the two nations. Photojournalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is hanging out around the quarantine zone hoping to get a shot of a live one. When instructed to escort his boss’s daughter, Samantha (Whitney Able) back to the US, he temporarily loses hope of ever getting a shot of the elusive and deadly creatures, but then they have to travel the zone…

An epic in miniature, Monsters is a beautiful and mature work of science fiction. Low budget SF is often saddled with a number of constraints and the usual work-arounds involve restricting locations or using cheap effects. Neither is found here, as the location shooting takes us on a fairly massive road trip through Mexico (in reality, filmed through a number of South American countries) and the southern United States. And the effects, handled by the director himself, are amazing. The scope of the film is staggering given its reputed budget of $200k.

The story is simple, but like all road movies, it’s the journey that’s important. Why you travel isn’t as interesting as who you meet along the way. But also like many road movies, the way that the story slowly unfolds here is a mixture of the frustrating and fascinating. There are moments of exceptional beauty and there are overdrawn and awkward scenes. But most of these more troublesome scenes are early, while the film is finding its rhythm. Once the journey hits its first major obstacle and Andrew and Sam are forced into travelling through the quarantine zone, we’re treated to some judicious use of special effects and sound design, and even without them, there’s a sense of magic to the journey, due purely to the strong cinematography, courtesy of the director himself who also acted as DOP.

The central performances are by-and-large good and much of the character work is highly believable. Indeed, the sense of reality that inhabits the film is its strongest point. At no point does anything seem ridiculous or out-of-place. Everyone sells the truth of what is happening. But what impressed me most was a cleverly misdirected use of a now-hackneyed editing trick to transform a single line of dialogue late in the film into some far more potent that you’d expect. I won’t say more, but when you see it hopefully you’ll smile at being suckered the same way I was.

There are things that you could nit-pick about this film but they’re negligible compared to its general awesomeness. Smart and enjoyable, Monsters is a superior addition to the invasion-by-extra-terrestrials sci-fi sub-genre.




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