Audacious in execution, Gareth Edwards’ debut feature is an impressive exercise in guerrilla filmmaking and an artistic battering ram which broke down the doors of Hollywood and gained him a seat at the biggest tables. From successfully reviving Hollywood’s “Godzilla” to being tapped to direct the eagerly anticipated “Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One”, he owes it all to this haunting adventure through alien territory.
Six years after a NASA probe crashed to earth bringing samples of alien life back from Jupiter’s moon Europa, contaminating a large area of Mexico, an infected zone has been established and the alien creatures which now inhabit the zone are barely kept contained by the US and Mexican military. When a cynical photojournalist is tasked by his employer to find his daughter and escort her home safely, a series of mishaps leaves the pair stranded in the infected zone, having to fend for themselves as they head north to safety.
Apart from the leads Scott McNairy and his then girlfriend, now wife Whitney Able, most of the people seen on screen are natives of the countries where the film was shot. All of it was shot on commercially available equipment, often without any prior permission, when the opportunity arose. All the locations used are real and most of the dialogue improvised but the end result is so effective that the adhoc nature of the filming simply lends the whole movie a dirty and worn authenticity.
Although it tells a story of alien invasion, it’s a character driven drama that relies on fear and the oppressive atmosphere of an unseen menace than special effects and shocks. When they are used, the visual effects – again created by Edwards himself using off the shelf software – are beautifully unconventional, lending the truly alien creatures an ethereal, poignant quality.
A film as fascinating for its feature as for the story of how it came to be made – it’s one of the few discs where I’ve watched, spellbound, every single one of the special features covering the making of it – it’s no wonder he was quickly snapped up for bigger and better things. Unfortunately, his involvement in the forthcoming “Star Wars” standalone movie precluded him from being involved in the sequel which comes to UK cinemas this week but he’s created a rich world in which other film makers can now play and he did it with a shoestring budget and a wealth of imagination and guts.