Inner City Vs. Outter Space
Set on the streets of South London, Attack The Block tells the story of a small-scale alien invasion as witnessed and combated by a group of delinquent youths. Having successfully mugged Sam [Whittaker], a young nurse on her way home, the group led by fifteen year old Moses [Boyega] are jarred by an object which crashes into a car parked close by; upon closer investigation Moses is attacked by a small hairless creature. With his pride cut deeper than the few gashes on his face, Moses gives chase. Cornering the creature in a wooden shack, the group proceed to beat it to death. Raising the corpse aloft they begin chanting victoriously before dragging it back to their council estate tower block to show it off. Upon arrival at the block, they take the lift up to see Ron [Frost], an overweight stoner/dealer, who houses a marijuana safe room for local villain, Hi-Hatz [Jumayn Hunter]. From the top floor, they witness several other falling objects and tool up in order to hunt them down. Once outside they soon realise that the small creature they faced didn’t adequately represent the larger, more aggressive males: clad in thick black fur, distinguished solely by their glowing neon-blue teeth. After a run-in with both the police and Hi-Hatz, the group retreat to the block and reluctantly team up with a shell-shocked Sam in order to survive.
I have no love for dirty, scummy, South London chavs (mostly for the fact that I’m a charming, polished, North London Irish gent), so a film focusing on the exploits of hoodie-clad tykes should infuriate me – and largely the yobbish bastards do – but Attack The Block has been executed in such an acutely brilliant manner by Joe Cornish, that you actually root for the little shits, without sympathising with them in any way. Yes, that probably sounds contradictory but although the story does a fair job of explaining the motives of these kids, it never justifies them. Sure, they each have their quirks, saving graces and amusing moments but they are deliberately written as louts who suffer the consequences of their short-sighted actions. Despite the indecipherable slang, drug paraphernalia and violence, I genuinely can’t get over how amazingly well Cornish has managed to make heroes out of loathsome cretins without glorifying or glamorising them.
Stepping up from his origins on the Adam & Joe Show, Mr. Cornish demonstrates a keen understanding of both writing and directing a supremely entertaining ensemble flick, similar to 80’s releases such as Gremlins and The Goonies. As stated previously, the characters are far from identifiable but they are portrayed exceptionally well by a hitherto unknown cast of young potentials. The story is arguably formulaic (being a sf/horror chase sequence) but thoroughly engaging for what it is. Equally, the visual effects, prosthetics and puppetry are well crafted and tastefully utilised. On top of all that, the score is brilliant. Mixing that distinctive 1950’s B-Movie sound with underground British electronica to produce a steady gripping pulse throughout. Naturally, there are a few negative aspects, first linking to the fact that this film is branded as a horror comedy or comedy horror or whatever, as such they have to fully explore both aspects and while the comedy is well written and the grisly horror action is decent, it’s neither uproariously funny nor horrendously scary; cemented by the lack of genuine peril, despite the overall body count. Additionally people may moan about the slang and dialect. I didn’t have any issue and I’m confident you can get the gist of what is being said so it shouldn’t hinder the flow – but that’s probably not going to stop people from complaining.
Like many cult British releases, the overall effect could have been more spectacular or flamboyantly shot but the air of charm and originality (recently displayed in Edgar Wright’s films) shines through and leaves you with the distinct impression that you have just witnessed something incredibly good.
13th May 2011
The Scene To Look Out For:
**Enormous spoilers within**
The closing shot. See? Spoilers, if this caught your eye, move on to the next paragraph or come back when you’ve seen the film. So the aliens have been defeated and Moses has been arrested for.. well, the police never make it clear but the dead bodies, blood everywhere and sword in his hand may have been evidence enough, I suppose. Sitting in the van, locked up with Pest [Esmail], Moses hears the crowd chanting his name out of respect and adoration. Smiling, the film ends. That was my favourite part; without making a fuss out of it, Cornish openly states what loutish kids are after. I’m not saying his actions are redeemed or that his scurrilous ways have earned him anything but all these kids wanted was attention and respect. Sounds silly but it’s another example of how well this film has been pieced together.
If you haven’t got the impression yet, the kids annoyed me. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I’m FUCKING sick of mouthy little kids with flick knives and attitudes. I hate them and I hate that they make it necessary for me to hate them. But as the story goes, I found them entertaining to watch, bonding together, showing off in front of girls, trying to act like ‘men’ it was amusing – if only because they’re ultimately pathetic. Then there’s Whittaker as Sam, who maintains throughout the entire film that she needs to stick with the armed kids, to avoid being mauled despite holding a grudge and hating the shit out of them. It’s a really well composed ensemble and each brings something unique to the group. Except Brewis [Luke Treadaway]. Yeah, he was a bit of a one-note joke, sorry; didn’t like him too much.
“Maybe there was a party at the zoo and a monkey fucked a fish”
In A Few Words:
“Thoroughly commendable, exciting and often beautifully shot debut”