Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
United Kingdom, 2010. Vertigo Films. Screenplay by Gareth Edwards. Cinematography by Gareth Edwards. Produced by Allan Niblo, James Richardson. Music by Jon Hopkins. Production Design by Gareth Edwards. Costume Design by Caroline Karlen. Film Editing by Colin Goudie. National Board of Review Awards 2010.
The lengthy scenes of actors bandying dialogue between them while a monster movie happens in the background reveals a director who sees far more charisma in his own ability to create characters and situations than is actually there. It begins with a clever conceit, that a probe returned to Earth years earlier with samples of lifeforms from a mission to Mars but crash-landed in Mexico and infested the area with alien creatures; in the time since, it has created an impassable quarantine zone between that country and the United States (in case you thought current border reinforcements weren’t tough enough). Scoot McNairy plays a photographer who is hired to escort a magazine tycoon’s daughter (Whitney Able, in real life McNairy’s wife) to safety, but despite her father being a rich white man with an angry telephone voice, this girl can’t just be scooped up by the army or provided with any privilege (not even any cash). Instead, someone that her father knows nothing about is asked to keep her company on dirty buses and trains, travel economy class and constantly come up against corrupt politicians and escorts who are always extorting them or leaving them stranded somewhere. The obstacles they encounter are undeniably just excuses to get the two of them into the zone where the creatures live eventually, but until their encounter with alien life we are forced to sit through plastic and contrived situations in which an actor of McNairy’s caliber can barely pull off a reasonable human character despite his proven ability to do so. Then the stars finally have a face to face with the bad guys and it turns out to be as illogically slack as the rest of the movie. The idea that a monster B-movie would make little sense and be full of plot holes (and more than a few leaps in logic) is not shocking, in fact it usually adds to the pleasure of this kind of movie, but Gareth Edwards’ pompous sense of drama (all the trappings without the content) make it laughable to endure. The self-importance of a movie that begins with a Jurassic Park buildup before turning into Close Encounters of the Third Kind without actually being as imaginative or detailed as either of those films becomes impossible by its conclusion.