Cannes Review: Gareth Edwards' Phenomenal Sci-Fi 'Monsters'
by Alex Billington
May 13, 2010
First things first, this isn't an official Cannes film, it is not part of any official line-up, it was a film showing in the Cannes Market. That said, I'm extremely glad I chose to seek out and see Gareth Edwards' Monsters, an incredibly low budget sci-fi film that is truly one of the best indie sci-fi films I've seen recently, and I am doing my best not to overexaggerate on this film. But I truly did love Monsters, through and through, and I would honestly call it a nearly flawless film, from script to acting to directing to score to cinematography. It is that phenomenal and I suggest everyone do their best to seek out this sci-fi film out as soon as they can.
Monsters starts out with an intro stating that we sent a space probe to search for life in our galaxy, but when it returned it burnt up in the atmosphere over Mexico. Soon, life forms began to appear, and most of Mexico was quarantined as an infected zone (see photo above). The film starts out with an intense military attack on one of these aliens, which look like a gigantic 50 foot tall octopus with tentacles and legs. We're introduced to Andrew (Scoot McNairy), who is a photographer for a newspaper and is in Mexico covering this (its been a few years since the aliens first appeared). He's instructed by his boss, the owner of the paper, to find his daughter Samantha (Whitney Able), who was caught in an attack and needs to be escorted back to the US.
Although this film draws comparisons to District 9, it's definitely not an action film, it's a very human story about these two people and the relationship they develop. Andrew attempts to take a train to the ocean and put Sam on a ferry, but it doesn't go according to plan, so he must travel with Sam through the infected zone to make it back to the US. There isn't a lot time spent with the aliens themselves, probably because Edwards was trying to keep this a low budget as possible, but the story is very much about what it's like to go through all of this. That said, the screenplay was impeccable, a perfectly realistic interpretation of a wonderful story.
The science fiction genre is one of my favorite genres, which means new sci-fi films must really impress me to stand out. And this is one of those films that truly stands out. The performances, especially from the two leads, were fantastic. Whitney Able is unbelievably beautiful and does an amazing job of adding some depth to her character, and McNairy is just as impressive. The effects were seamless and looked great, which is even more amazing considering I learned later that Edwards did them all on his computer by himself. There really is so much to admire and appreciate and love about this and it's as close to near perfection as we'll get with low budget sci-fi films nowadays. Even the score was a wonderful addition to an already fantastic story.
Monsters is a film that you can just sit back and enjoy, and it's not a sci-fi horror with jump scares, but it's about the struggles and the story of these two people. I will unquestionably be supporting this film as much as I possibly can and I hope it makes its way to theaters, because it truly deserves to be seen by audiences. If you love sci-fi at all, Monsters is definitely a must see film. I'm not the only one who loved it, either, as Alan Jones on Twitter saw it today, too, and said the following (which I completely agree with): "Best film so far is Gareth Edwards' amazing Monsters, brilliantly directed, wonderfully scripted, superbly acted, so moving."