Review: Attack the Block
PLOT: A teen gang living on a council estate in South London, defend their home during an alien invasion.
REVIEW: Despite the universally glowing reviews out of SXSW, I wasn't 100% convinced that I was going to like ATTACK THE BLOCK. I knew that the project was Godfathered by the great Edgar Wright, and usually that would be enough, but something about the first trailer rubbed me the wrong way. This might be due to the fact that I was heavy into THE WIRE Season 4 at the time, and the trailer made it look (to me anyways) as some sort of SHAUN OF THE DEAD inspired take off on THE WIRE, or SUPER 8 gone gangsta, which of course, it's not.
As far as comedy-horror hybrids go, ATTACK THE BLOCK is one of the more succesfull I've seen in a while, although I'd wager it emphasizes laughs over scares. Some have argued that it glamorizes the teen gangbanger lifestyle a bit, and sure- maybe it does marginally, but when the film opens, they aren't presented too glamorously. It begins with them mugging a young nurse (Jodie Whittaker) who lives on their block, with the kids, led by Moses (a brilliant John Boyega) treating her very roughly indeed.
Interestingly, it's also suggested that the only reason the aliens are attacking in the first place is due to Moses' unprovoked attack on one of them, and afterwards claiming it's body as some sort of trophy. Other than that, ATTACK THE BLOCK doesn't spend a whole lot of time examining the lives and motivations of the kids comprising our central gang, but the point is made that their lives seem pretty damn hopeless at times, although this aspect is not dwelled upon. The only things they can rely on are each other, and some rad reefer courtesy of the nice guy pot dealer (Nick Frost, in what essentially amounts to an extended cameo) upstairs, who works for a vicious drug dealer that rules the block.
Running a breezy eighty-eight minutes, the alien attack happens early, and from there the action rarely stops to take a break, being propelled along by a wicked score courtesy of Basement Jaxx. It's a wild ride, and while the kids are a bit thuggish at first, don't be surprised if they grow on you by the end, although- being a hard R, the stakes are high, and you can bet a whole lot of them don't make it to the end credits.
Our lead is definitely Boyega as Moses, and to give you an idea of the effect he had on the Fantasia audience, they were all chanting "Moses, Moses" by the end of the film. He's absolutely perfect as the "old before his time" Moses, who's like 15 going on 40, and is believable in his transition from wannabe gangsta, to hero. Loved him in this, although, to be fair, all of the kids are good.
Also noteworthy is Luke Treadaway as a stoner suburbanite who, thanks to a hankerin' for some of Nick Frost's sweet ganja, has the worst night of his life while tagging along with Moses and co., as they try to repel the alien horde. As for Frost- well, he's Frost, meaning he's awesome as always.
One thing that's unique about ATTACK OF THE BLOCK is the look of the aliens, with lots of shadow and florescent lighting being used. This may be in part due to the (presumably) low-budget, but whatever the case it works, and give the film an original look.
Regardless of whether ATTACK THE BLOCK catches on Stateside, I presume director Joe Cornish (who's already co-written Spielberg's TINTIN with Wright) is going to find himself squarely on the Hollywood A-list before long, and if ever there was a guy cut out to direct crowd-pleasing genre-fare, this is the guy. It's a hell of a calling card for Cornish, but more than that, it's also a genuinely great film, and one of the more memorable ones I've seen lately.
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