Review: Attack the Block

Posted: July 29, 2011 in Film Reviews
Tags: , , ,

A scene from Attack the BlockMost sci-fi pictures dealing with alien invasion concentrate on the military and government’s efforts to address the invading force. But any good horror movie will tell you the higher powers tend to be slow to the take, so you’ll probably have to take matters into your own hands. That sentiment is two-fold when you live in an inner city neighbourhood and would probably get blamed for the surrounding mayhem before cops even figured out they should be worried about E.T.

On her way home from work, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is intercepted by a group of teenagers who proceed to rob her. Luckily, they are interrupted by the crash landing of some sort of meteor. Moses (John Boyega), the group’s leader, goes in for a closer look only to discover the thing is alive and violent. Not to be outdone by some creature, the boys hunt and kill it, which turns out to be a mistake of epic proportions. Soon they find themselves on the run from the alien’s larger, meaner brethren and forced to defend their block from “big alien gorilla wolf monsters.”

As mentioned earlier, this film is innovative because the only thing standing between London and an alien takeover is a group of teenagers armed with a baseball bat and sword. The war for Earth begins early in the picture. The action unfolds within the confines of one city block and, mostly, in a single apartment building in which all the characters live. In addition to depicting a battle fiercer than any gang war the neighbourhood’s ever endured, the film portrays the attitudes, camaraderie and pitfalls of growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood. The combination of these elements makes the film entertaining, but also touching.

For the most part, the kids speak street slang, but it’s not difficult to follow (even with the English accents). Moreover, the dialogue is incredibly funny as the boys spew bravado and make jokes in between running for their lives. Writer/director Joe Cornish cites the dialogue of John Carpenter’s The Thing as a source of inspiration because none of the characters say anything anyone wouldn’t in a similar situation. The style on the other hand is influenced by the rawness of the street settings in The Warriors and Streets of Fire.

The appearance of the creatures is phenomenal. As their blacker than night fur conceals them in the darkness, often all that can be seen is their razor sharp, glow-in-the-dark teeth. However, as more of the aliens are revealed, their look is simple but frightening.

The young actors were all between the ages of 10 and 17 when the film was shot, and many were selected from the neighbourhood in which the story is depicted. Thus, their realism really is genuine. Moreover, having Edgar Wright as a producer meant getting Nick Frost to play a small role as a long-haired drug dealer with a few funny scenes probably wasn’t too difficult. And Whittaker does more than just run around screaming; she plays a vital role in the narrative and adds an important component to the group dynamic.

Attack the Block is a unique take on somewhat of a tired genre that shouldn’t have much difficulty building a following.

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