Monsters: Ingenious Sci-Fi at the Mexican Border

A road-trip romance thick with sci-fi circumstance, Monsters imagines a bizarro-world present in which a NASA probe has crashed, leaving part of Mexico "infected" with hostile, rapidly breeding alien life. American newspapers will pay in the high five figures for a shot of a creature up close, or graphic images of their victims. Enter Andrew (Scoot McNairy), a scowling opportunist with a camera whose plan to cash in on the aliens' seasonal migration is foiled when he's forced to escort his boss' lost tourist daughter, Sam (Whitney Able), back to the U.S. border. He's a mercenary paparazzo; she's an idealist critical of his fuzzy morals. Opposites attract. Borrowing the handheld lensing and easy pace of a low-budget character piece, director Gareth Edwards, a CGI artist by trade, has created a dystopian landscape so naturalistic it's uncanny. As a writer, he's a less-successful realist, resorting to some pretty hoary contrivances to get and keep his boy and girl in the same space for the film's duration. Edwards is playing with isolationist border paranoia to some extent, but he seems more concerned with the class/economic implications—and romantic allure—of disaster.

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