Monsters (2010)

Director: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

After seeing “Godzilla” back in May, I knew there was no way I could pass up taking a look at director Gareth Edwards’ first feature-length film, 2010’s “Monsters.” It didn’t matter that I had no idea what this movie was really about, because the intrigue was still there. As it turns out, not knowing was actually helpful. Like 2014’s “Godzilla,” “Monsters” thrives on the audience knowing only as much as its main characters know about their situation. Also like director Edwards’ more high-profile movie, “Monsters” is less concerned about armed conflict against massive city-destroying creatures, and chooses to direct most of its focus on its relatable human characters.

Six years prior to the events of the film, a NASA probe crash landed in Mexico, carrying with it extra-terrestrial beings of an unknown origin. These beings, when fully-grown, are of gigantic proportions and because they are asexual, they reproduce at an unbelievable rate. Soon, the US-Mexican border was overrun and placed under quarantine. We simply don’t have the capabilities to deal with them all, so a wall was built to keep the residents of the United States safe… for the time being. Flashing forward to the present day, photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is given another job by his boss: “Get my daughter back home safely!” The boss’s daughter, Samantha (Whitney Able), is in a Mexican hospital with an injured hand (which, unless I missed it, is never explained). All Andrew has to do is get her back on U.S. soil by any mode of transportation available. Sounds easy enough, or at least it would in a world where you’re not in constant fear of being squashed or eaten alive.

In fact, it turns out to be an arduous journey for the pair. First, the train they board gets halted by damaged tracks. Next, some Mexican whore that Andrew has sex with robs him the morning after while he’s out of the room, which includes stealing Samantha’s passport. That means the ferry she’s been waiting for is out of the question. Desperate, Samantha pays for passage through “the quarantine zone” with her engagement ring (the subject of which never comes up when she makes a phone call later on). Andrew and Samantha know they’re taking a huge risk in going this route, but it’s the last one left available to them. Along the way, their armed escort gets snuffed out while they can only watch helplessly and hope that they aren’t next. Surviving through the night, they spend the remainder of their travels on foot.

Like with “Godzilla,” there is nothing particularly outstanding about the acting in “Monsters,” although that doesn’t disqualify the effort. The movie is quite effective in the way it demonstrates how human society has grown accustomed to the aliens’ presence. It’s been long enough that only people who have been shielded all this time, like Andrew and Samantha, can still be upset or sickened by the carnage left in the wake of an attack. Everyone else is so used to their situation that they’ve got the aliens’ activities down to a routine schedule… not that they can do anything about it.

“Monsters” is not your typical alien invasion story. It touches on social issues which are still relevant four years later, and which will likely continue to be for some time. It’s no accident that the movie is almost entirely set in Mexico. The most important connection to reality that this film makes is with the subject of illegal immigration and border fences. That we are more concerned with bombing the crap out of our perceived enemies than we are with helping our fellow man is a sad thing indeed. Worse still, there are those who seem too eager to profit on the plight of others. Priorities, people! If, when you watch this movie, you wonder why there isn’t a greater emphasis on the alien creatures and the reason they chose our planet, ask yourself who the real monsters in “Monsters” are supposed to be.

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