Review: MONSTERS (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Review: MONSTERS (2010)

RATING: 2.5/5

Consumer-level camcorders (Sony EX3), a tiny budget of an estimated $15,000 and a crew consisting of only two people -- those are pretty much sum up for Gareth Edwards's feature-film debut, MONSTERS. For a genre movie about alien invasion, the movie is unbelievably stunning and as technically accomplished as those big studio productions that cost $100-million-plus.

The movie begins with a disclaimer that a NASA sample-collecting probe in search of alien life has crashed upon re-entry over Central America and thus infecting northern Mexico territories with giant roaming creatures. A photojournalist named Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is eager to search outstanding shot that will win him a magazine cover but at the same time, he is also assigned to escort his boss' grown daughter, Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), from Costa Rica back to the U.S. safely. At the beginning, these two strangers have their indifference but they slowly develop friendship for each other. Then it doesn't take long before they discover the trip is tougher than expected. This is especially after they fork out $5,000 worth of ticket price for the ferry ride back to the U.S. But under unexpected circumstances, they have somehow lost their passport and they now have to cough up $10,000 for their one and only option to travel across the "Infected Area" toward the American border. Both of them have little money left, so Samantha have no choice but to trade off with her engagement diamond ring. Soon they embark on an uncertain journey to the area across the troubled land.

Gareth Edwards, who also penned the screenplay, doesn't really offers anything new about alien invasion movie we have never seen before. It's pretty much the familiar terrain that comes before. But what makes this movie special is the intimacy Edwards have created a sense of realism that bonds the human connection rather than a primary visual showcase of special effects extravaganza. With only two primary cast, Scott McNairy and Whitney Able are natural in their acting performances. Their characters are unlike those we usually encounter in the like-minded genre -- less caricatured but more human.

Still this is a tour de force showcase for Edwards himself. He is technically a one-man show, who also pulls off cinematographer and special effects duty. On the visual front, he succeeded admirably. Not only the production design (shot on location in Mexico) which feels authentic and horrifying, the effects which he bring them from the destruction of the area to the conceptual design of the creatures (which is resemblance of an octopus) are close to photo realistic. These are even more impressive since they were all rendered on Edwards' own computers.

As impressive as they looks, MONSTERS remains a deeply flawed movie that is suffered from pacing issues. Even though it's clear that the movie isn't aimed for the more crowd-pleasing formula like CLOVERFIELD or DISTRICT 9, this decidedly low-key genre approach is lagging too much for its own good. Some scenes just linger long until they wear out of welcome, and Edwards seems to be too restraint when comes to tension buildup. Viewers might end up feeling tedious for the movie's lack of action especially towards the climactic finale.

MONSTERS might be far off from those aforementioned movies to certify this as genre masterpiece, but Gareth Edwards remain someone to look out for in the future.

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