Film review – Monsters (2010)

Monsters: Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able)
Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able)

The low-budget British film Monsters begins with a found-footage/doco style opening of a giant squid-like creature being shot at by the US army. It looks like a film along the same lines of District 9, which is further evoked by its back-story about an alien species that is quarantined along the US/Mexican boarder in what is known as the Infected Zone. Similar to District 9, the treatment of the aliens is symbolic of the way Western governments treat and respond to refugees and illegal immigrants. However, for the majority of the film the aliens are kept in the background. So despite all the initial signs that suggest Monsters will be a science-fiction/thriller, it is actually best described as a melancholic romance film since the majority of the focus is on the growing feelings that the two human protagonists have for each other.

Our two heroes (of sorts) are a bitter and frustrated photojournalist named Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and his wealthy boss’s daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able), whom he is reluctantly looking after. As they travel through the Infected Zone in Central America hoping to make it back into the US they encounter the destruction and devastation done to Mexico as a result of the US military’s actions against the aliens. Their cynicism begins to subside, they stop resenting each other and through shared experiences find themselves drawn to each other. In other words, Monsters follows the narrative structure of the classic screwball comedy/road movie It Happened One Night, even though it is tonally a completely different film

Monsters: Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy)
Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy)

Once you accept that Monsters is a love story set against a sad metaphor for how the US treats outsiders (hint: the film’s title is not referring to the alien creatures), then it can be reasonably enjoyed on the level it was intended to be. The few times the possibility of an encounter with aliens does enter the narrative the film is suitably tense and exciting. While the US military aggression is sometimes too bluntly asserted (the soldiers singing “Ride of the Valkyries” is particularly crude) there are also powerful moments such as when Andrew and Samantha encounter the giant wall that has been built to keep the aliens out. The rather over-the-top ending will either be regarded as ludicrous and cheesy or effectively majestic depending on the extent that you are still prepared to go along with the film.

Watch highlights from the Q&A with writer/director Gareth Edwards, moderated by Thomas Caldwell.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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  1. ***Spoiler warning***

    Would you say that the ending was related to the 1st scene? i.e. the footage we see at the very beginning of the film and then the last scene when the army vehicle is shown approaching, and an officer can be heard singing (his theme song), in which case the story suggests that the two stars fall in love and then die.

  2. ***Spoiler warning***

    Absolutely – the first scene of the film is actually the film’s conclusion so you’re reading of how the film ends is 100% correct. I’ll be honest and admit that I wasn’t totally sure if this was case when I saw the film but then I met writer/director Gareth Edwards and he confirmed that in fact this is exactly the way he intended it to be. He acknowledged that it is a subtle detail that may not be obvious on the first viewing of the film, but then again, he may have been saying that simply to be polite to me since I wasn’t sure!

  3. ***Spoiler warning***

    The first scene picks up where the last scene ends; in it Kaulder is screaming for help, cradling Sam’s limp body in his arms.

  4. ***Spoiler Warning***

    To pick up where P.T.Reszel left off.

    Kaulder is carrying Sam’s limp body, chasing after the US military which is leaving him behind as an airstrike is coming in to attack the creature and decimate the area that Kaulder in left behind in much like the town they pass through soon after crossing the border-wall.

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