It’s always exciting when a new director enters the scene.  The promise of fresh talent free of studio interference and a fearless approach makes for a potentially intriguing combination.  Monsters reinforces this with first time director Gareth Edwards mixing many genre staples in an unusual blend.  Those expecting the typical ‘alien vs. man’ battle-fest would probably be the only disappointed viewers in his essay on humanity’s predilection for finding violent answers against unknown questions.

Asked to escort his employer’s daughter Samantha (Whitney Able) back from Mexico to the U.S., photographer Andrew (Scoot McNairy) seizes a chance.  Hearing of an extra-terrestrial breeding ground near the American border, he aims to capture a shot that will result in a huge pay-day.  As they travel toward the site where the aliens live, they become disturbed by the actions of an army doing anything to contain the area.  Witnessing the struggle between humans and aliens, they are forced to question which side needs protection.

Sparse with his dialogue and letting imagery tell the tale, Edwards knows what motivates a good sci-fi story.  One only has to look closely under the surface of most films in the genre to find they have actually been about something.  In this case Monsters looks at the American views on immigrants and how they’re dealt.  As the aliens are the ultimate outsiders their consumption of Earth’s resources to survive is seen as an aggressive act by a military only too keen to destroy any supposed threat to human life.

It’s fascinating how recent efforts have shown Americans to be far more harmful than other-worldly creatures.  Maybe it’s a sign of how far sci-fi films have come from the 1950’s where they were portrayed as saviours against outside forces.  That doesn’t mean Monsters is an anti-American film although it asks the audience why brute force is always used in dealing with huge issues.  With the strong story and natural acting by the leads it all adds to a very fine first calling card for Edwards who creates strong tension and an odd romanticism within his morality tale.

Full marks to Monsters for daring to be different as those involved utilise their creative freedom to its maximum.  Hopefully they still have this with their second feature as – by going on Monsters’ strong evidence – they will have a solid professional career ahead.

Rating out of 10:  7

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