Written & Directed by Gareth Edwards
There are a number of smaller, independent films produced every year that go immensely overlooked by mainstream audiences, but which have the artistic merit and loads of entertainment that they should be viewed by as many people as possible. The beauty of moviemaking today is that these smaller films can get made. And, no, not all of them are great. Many are sappy, poorly made films, but there are the handful that defy the studio system and present new filmmakers with the opportunity to make their mark with a great film. Not everyone will see Gareth Edwards directorial debut, Monsters, and even those that do see it will like it, but I think it is a film that bears mentioning, because it deserves more people getting to experience this film.
Six years ago, NASA sent out a probe which discovered we are not alone in the universe. Upon its return with sensitive material, it broke up over Mexico, and now there is a huge “Infected Zone” which is extremely dangerous. Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is a young photojournalist who spends his cynical time searching for a disaster shot that will get him the big payday. So when he is tasked with escorting his boss’s daughter, Sam (Whitney Able), out of the danger zone and back to America, he must sacrifice not only a great chance for some great photo, but also his life as they must trek through the infected zone after a serious of unlucky events, including the departure of the last ferry around the zone.
From the opening scene of the film it is evident that writer/director Gareth Edwards knows what he is doing with this story. He has a great sense of how to shoot this type of sci-fi film. He opts for the realistic look as opposed to the fanatical, and it serves the film very well because in reality, the alien infected zone part of the story is just a backdrop for the true story, the developing human relationship between Andrew and Sam. The dialogue is concise, as is the action, which makes its impact felt that much more. The concentration on the relationship between the two main characters is handled at a patient pace, allowing the viewer to become fully enveloped in the human aspects of their dilemmas and conflicts, as well as their love.
I thought early on that the love story part of the film would be too obvious and predictable, but by the end it was neither. Edwards really does a good job of commenting on the walls we, as humans, seem to put up to keep the bad out, but which ultimately keep us from experiencing all that life has to offer, the good and the bad. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but without the bad, how are we to know or appreciate the good. This may be a unique take on the film, but it is what I ended up getting out of it. The trials Andrew and Sam go through are really interesting to watch.
Edwards was all around this film as well. He was the cinematographer, and it was beautiful. He was the production designer, and for a low budget film, that was extremely well handled. He also did the visual effects, which were small enough for this small film to seem to fit just right. The performances from McNairy and Able, while not perfect, were very subdued and fit the tone of the film quite well. It is not flashy and it may not even be that great, but it is a film that gripped me, entertained me, and made me think from start to finish, which cannot be said of many of the Hollywood products these days.