Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd December 2010
Box Office Worldwide: $4.2M
Budget: $800 thousand
Production compaines: Vertigo Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenwriter: Gareth Edwards
Andrew (McNairy) is a photographer covering the six-year-long alien infestation of Central America. Annoyingly, his work is sidetracked when he's assigned to escort his boss' daughter Sam (Able) back to the US before he's even seen one of the gigantic spider-squid things in person. But their travel plans go awry, and they miss the last ferry around the "infected zone", namely northern Mexico. Can they get through on foot instead, escorted by a network of armed human traffickers? And why are they carrying gasmasks?
McNairy and Able play their scenes with such off-handed realism that it never seems like they're acting at all. Even when things get quietly emotional and/or loudly terrifying. And the people around them are so authentic that they seem like locally hired extras: indeed, that's the only credit they get. As a result, we take this trip with Andrew and Sam, recoiling at the freak-out moments and reacting with anger, fear or compassion. It sometimes turns horrific, but it's also funny and sweetly moving.
This refreshing approach to the genre makes it continually surprising. Yes, there are eye-popping special effects along the way, as well as much more subtle digital trickery. But these elements appear in the film as if by accident, like we only happened to see them because we're passing by. Of course, this means that the film isn't hugely action packed; it often stops completely for interpersonal drama. And it also means that the road movie takes on an It Happened One Night quality as these bickering strangers are thrown together against the odds.
This is a masterful filmmaking debut for Edwards, especially as he also edited the film and produced the effects himself. Most of the time it feels more like a romantic comedy than a monster movie, and yet there's relentless tension all the way through, erupting into almost unbearable terror at times. But it never abandons the human angle for a split second, from jungle commandos to probing alien tentacles. And as a result it's more gripping and entertaining than Hollywood movies that have 20 times the budget.