Lost in Translation meets War of the Worlds is how first-time director Gareth Edwards described his little-known British sci-fi film Monsters which took the festival circuit by storm earlier this year, finally reaching British shores this month.
Six years ago having discovered the possibility of an alien life form in the solar system, NASA sent off a probe to investigate. Upon re-entering Earth, disaster struck and the probe crashed; infecting half of Mexico with the samples of the suspicious new life that had been gathered.
Cutting to the present day, with the ‘infected zone’ of Mexico still quarantined and both the American and Mexican military tirelessly struggling to keep the creatures at bay from spreading across rest the world, Andrew (Scoot McNairy), a US photojournalist on a job, agrees to escort his boss’s daughter, Samantha ‘Sam’ (Whitney Able), from Mexico, back to America.
A series of complications arise for the pair and the journey to the US border doesn’t pose as easy as planned, forcing Andrew and Sam to brave the infected zone, unaware of what they are going to come across on their way back home.
Gareth Edwards’s bleak dystopian Monsters is the perfect example of pure escapism cinema. Chip thrills and CGI-heavy creatures are too common for Monsters, which draws heavily on the infamous saying ‘less-is-more’ as eerie discomforting sounds of the aliens follow Andrew and Sam’s every footstep.
Sprinkling a little romance into Monsters proves to be a believable mixture for the film, heightened with the underlying and notable chemistry between McNairy and Able that is handled with loving care.
Discussions about mundane things such as if the other has pets seems so important in the circumstances of the dangerous territory Andrew and Sam walk through- there is no guaranty they are going to get out alive, but knowing these little things about there life helps the audience render sympathy for the leads and root for their survival as they cross murky waters and hear tales from their guides about what the aliens.
With the arrival of the penultimate Harry Potter set to hit the big screen in late November, Monsters, will probably suffer the fate of other smaller releases and be at the back of cinema-goers minds, unless word of mouth proves it can make a decent profit – which it certainly should. Gareth Edwards was a born director, with an already distinct style; he is a definite watch for the near future as are McNairy and Able, both breathing life into the understated and played down 70s acting style that has, over the years, been subsided for over the top performances that watch as if dialogue is lifted right off a script.
A strong screenplay reminiscent to last years District 9, believable and most importantly, realistic acting from the virtually unknown McNairy and Able and with surprisingly impressive visuals on its miniscule budget of $15,000, you’ll find it very hard to regret seeing Monsters, a film, for once, worthy of its hype.