Monsters (2010) (R)

Before "Godzilla", Gareth Edwards had another monster movie under his belt: "Monsters". This conveniently named picture was not that popular and managed to tip-toe the line between action-thriller and indie film: the result was a limited release phenomena that caught the eye of many a critic and not that many audience members. Yet it was enough to place Edwards in the position to become a credible, main-stream director and his treatment of the king of the monsters had indicated that he will stay there for a while. Still, it's good to go back and witness the evolution from indie to mainstream; but only so that we can see for ourselves that "Monsters" is a credible, fun, and almost faultless movie.
Beautifully shot in the most exquisite lighting and depth of field, brimming with the hipster nonsense angle; "Monsters" is a survival story. Six years after NASA discovered the possibility of extra-terrestrial life in the solar system, one of their ships crash landed in Mexico with a possible stowaway. The entire lower United States and Mexico became a quarantined zone and at present day, the government is trying to contain the aliens.
"Monsters" begins in Central America where photojournalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) is looking for his boss' daughter. He doesn't want to be the baby-sitter for some rich brat and wants to get his prize winning photograph of the devastation caused by the monsters. He finds Samantha (Whitney Able) in a hospital and (after seeing that she's really cute) decides that the best thing for them to do is stick together. But catching a bus or ferry outside of the quarantined zone is not as easy as it sounds. Each trip will cost the odd couple thousands of dollars and safety is not exactly guaranteed.
First you have to realize that "Monsters" works so well because it grounds its character so well for the audience that it becomes a character piece and not a monster movie, though its title would like you to think that.
Again, we see how clever Gareth Edwards is because "Monsters" is a misleading title about perceptions. The movie, like most sci-fi films, has a political statement; but thankfully it doesn't hammer it into you head like Neill Blomkamp's movies do. The film's commentary is about immigration and government involvement, though you could turn it to anything involving fear.
Edwards never wants to preach, instead making an enjoyable movie with preachy aspects present. "Monsters" is a movie in which we rarely see the aliens. The times they appear on screen is fairly rare and the characters don't operate in fear of them constantly. It's more of a relaxed atmosphere, which I find the most realistic. People would have realized that things might have been pointless and resigned themselves to the monster-ridden world.
Also nice to see is the necessity for bilingual speech. The film doesn't have everyone speak English because the audience does, nor does it white-wash its cast, though our two main character are Caucasian.
"Monsters" involved such a small crew that they were able to get through villages without their extras even knowing they were being filmed...or so says works I've read on the movie.
Whether or not they were stealthy when it came to shooting the the movie or whether everyone knew it is irrelevant. "Monsters" is an entirely emotional, successful, and intriguing work that shouldn't be as good as it is.
It has many dimensions, fully realized characters, and the ability to transcend itself in the simplest of moments.
It's beauty is what is most surprising.

Score: ★★★★

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