Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Monsters (2010)

Here is yet another slow-paced film that is kind of related to horror. I mean the title is Monsters, so that must mean it's scary, right? Well, it kind of is at times. I'd call it more tense than actually frightening though. Despite that, it is an exciting and deep movie with a ton to offer. A comparison I can make would be to District 9. This film is the American commentary (by a British director, Gareth Edwards, and a British film) on the border issue between Mexico and the US. Maybe the idea isn't the absolute moving idea behind the film, but it certainly is something that the film doesn't try to hide either.

It mostly involves two characters, Sam (played by Whitney Able) and Kaulder (played by Scoot McNairy) as they try to get from Central America back to the US. Sam is the daughter of Kaulder's employer, who is some kind of big magazine or newspaper owner of some sort. Kaulder is a photographer. And Sam- Sam is engaged but somehow unhappy about it, although that's never explained.

It's an intriguing little movie on a multitude of levels. The characters are very real. The acting is very good. The directing is excellent, and I'm not surprised that Gareth Edwards was offered the Godzilla reboot as his next project. I can't stress enough how well this film was shot and how good the CGI is here. It's seriously incredible, especially for its budget. This movie is good from beginning to end, despite its deliberately slow pace and focus on anything but horror for the majority of the film.

I would call this movie an art horror alien movie thing. It has elements of horror, certainly, but that isn't the main focus except in a few select scenes. The main focus is that element of newness, discovery, and human relationships. It seems to be a movie primarily about love with the backdrop of this alien entanglement going on in the background. Like some of the better stories of this genre, it also takes place long after the aliens have become a more routine occurrence, which makes this more about the story of travel and relationship and less about the aliens, which are background for the most part.

I would say that about 90% of the movie is about Sam and Kaulder either traveling, talking, or just emerging into a relationship. I like how the movie subtly hints at things without ever outright saying much at all. The movie hints that Sam is unhappy in her relationship and with her engagement, but nothing is ever stated on that front. The way she acts says it all. And her last line about not wanting to go home cements it. We're never privy to what's going on with her, but to me that's endlessly fascinating. I don't know if she simply fell out of love or was never truly in love to begin with. Stuff like that tickles the back of my mind. I want to know why she would have ever said yes to an engagement, why the ring was so important to wear even when she clearly was having issues, and why it was so easy to just latch onto another relationship even while she told her (implied) fiance that she loves him. That's the human elements that I simply want to understand. And those human elements are a big reason why this movie works while giving you a feeling of dread throughout.

This is a beautiful and haunting movie with a lot to say about both humans and outsiders alike. But you know what worked for me the most? You know, besides how well the film was shot and how good the acting was...

I loved that the ending of the movie was really in the beginning of the movie. To really get the entire movie, you need to remember that opening. Kaulder and Sam, after finally being rescued by the army, find the convoy that they're in attacked by the alien creatures. Sam is wounded and possibly dead, we don't know for sure, and we're never told. Kaulder carries her away, be she dead or alive. There's something poignant and incredibly sad in that, especially in light of the final moments in the film with them kissing and being carried away, Sam saying that she doesn't want to go home. It can make you emotional, especially when you spend so long with these two characters, finding out who they are and really starting to care about their plight.

I haven't spoken much about the horror, but it's certainly there. Again, there is a feeling of both tension and dread permeating the movie. There are people who die, even a child who dies. These are terrifying and meaningful moments. The terror here can be likened to Jurassic Park. It's the same kind of tension that can be felt in that movie, the same kind of horror. In fact the comparisons between the two movies is probably more apt than I would have expected at first glance.

It's a good movie in all the ways people want a movie to be good. I guess it might be a little dry at times and some might even say that it could be boring. I won't fight them entirely on that. But the beautiful cinematography, the great acting, and the amazing story really give a lot to this movie. So, I can't really complain. I enjoyed it a ton and will definitely watch it again once I have some more time and a bit more of a chance to enjoy it completely. Obviously, I recommend this movie. Just don't be surprised if it's a little slow and a bit dry at times.

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