What begins as a road movie transforms into an elusive science fiction thriller, and ends abruptly as a romantic drama. But there is a deep sadness that permeates the narrative. This is instigated in a prologue sequence depicting the US military on a search and rescue mission, which culminates in an airstrike on one of the massive alien “octopus-spider” creatures, which involves Kaulder and Samantha as casualties. This isn’t immediately apparent, but can be confirmed upon repeat viewing.
Apart from the superb performances from McNairy and Able (and the great work ellicited from the un-professionals), what makes Monsters such a powerful and intelligent movie is Gareth Edwards’ approach to tone and atmosphere. The narrative isn’t so interested in the bigger picture, although that is addressed, albeit ironically, even cryptically, by the movie’s title, but by the little moments within scenes, the nuances of the characters expressions, through body language and reflection of thought. This is one of the most moving and unassuming love stories I’ve ever seen, exquisitely heightened by Jon Hopkins beautifully atmospheric, hugely emotive, mostly electronic score.