A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion.
Man oh man acolytes, did I see a good one last night! I’m not even going to go through my usual demands of you as I usually do at the start of a review. I’m just going to get right to it. And “It” is a little banger called “Attack The Block”.
“Attack The Block” tells the tale of a local gang of thugs who are up to no good on Guy Fawkes day (The film actually takes place in the evening). The film opens with a young woman named Sam (Jodie Whitaker) walking home from work as she’s talking on her cell phone. After a block or two, she realizes that she is being followed by some kids on bikes. She knows they are up to no good when two of them ride past her to block an escape attempt as the other three confront her & demand her cell phone & her purse. She gives them her property & they merrily walk away, leaving her extremely upset but glad not to be hurt. The gang takes a moment to marvel at all of the fireworks being shot into the air when they notice one that seems to be headed right at them. It looks like a shooting star of sorts & it crashes into a car mere feet in front of them. The car is totaled & the gang initially think that they’re being attacked by the police. Greedily, the leader of the gang runs to the car & tries to rip out it’s stereo when he realizes he’s not alone in the wreckage. There is an alien in there as well & it’s hungry & angry as well.
The alien attacks & the gang manages to beat it to death. After trying to figure out what it is (They decide it’s a mutated dog of sorts). They hang if on a pole & parade it through the streets, proudly showing off their “Trophy” to all who are curious. Unfortunately for them (& for England), there are a lot more of these “Shooting Stars” hurtling towards the ground & all of them have an angry alien inside of it. Firmly ensconced in their building, the gang realizes that London is under attack & their block is their turf…no aliens are going to take over their turf without a fight!
Let me talk about the cast in this film for a bit. The gang is comprised of five teenagers, not some Guy Ritchie type gangster types. I found it refreshing to see real teens playing the gang members for a change & not some twenty somethings that look youthful enough to get over. In addition, as far as I could tell, they were all newcomers. So the performances, while rough in some spots, felt fresh to me. There are of course some established actors in the film. Nick Frost is top billed even though he only has a couple of scenes in the movie as Ron, the drug dealer who the gang brings the alien’s corpse too. Why? Because that’s where they spend a lot of their time anyway. It just made sense to them. I liked this aspect of the film too because it showed that as tough as kids think they are, they will always return to the place where they feel safest when they’re in trouble & there’s usually an adult there to shelter them. Maybe give them some advice as well. Unfortunately Ron (Frost) isn’t the best choice as he’s a bit of a coward & perpetually stoned as well. Luke Treadway is the comic relief in the film as Brewis, a customer of Ron’s that always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time. He is pretty funny but his appearances do grow a bit tired as the film proceeds. Jodie Whitaker shows a lot of moxie as Sam, who has to join the gang in their battle against the beasties as they are a bit miffed over the fact that one of their own has been killed & want revenge.
But the film would be a complete failure if the teens weren’t up to the task of making the goings on believable. With names like Moses, Pest, Hi-Hatz, Biggs & Mayhem. All of them inhabit their roles completely & believably. In addition, although the film starts with them being distinctly unlikable, as the film progresses you can’t help but like them & respect the bond they share together. They are definitely friends who look out for each other, no matter what the issue may be. Special mention must be made to John Boyega as Moses, the leader of the gang. His performance runs the gamut from his myriad complexities: his insecurity and feeling of persecution alongside his bravery, resourcefulness and sense of honor. It’s am amazing performance & I would love to see more from this youngster. And I have to emphasize the word “Youngsters”. There is a funny scene when all of them have to fo to their respective apartments to get weapons for the upcoming battle & all of them are promptly questioned by their (off screen) parents as to where they’re going & to be back by ten. All of them promise to do so. I found it rather refreshing that for all they are up to, disrespecting their parents is a no-no.
As to the aliens, well I’ve never quite seen aliens that look like these which was great for a change. In actuality you really don’t get a very good look at them (except in the beginning when they kill one). Director Joe Cornish wisely chooses to emphasize there looming shapes in the dark. They seem to be a combination of a simian & a dog. They run on all fours like gorillas and they have these fantastic glowing blue fangs. In one scene the teeth are mistaken for their eyes until they open their mouths wider & reveal rows & rows of brightly glowing blue fangs. They are both different & intimidating. I thought they were outstandingly designed. There isn’t very much CGI used in the film either which for me is always a plus. It’s in there, don’t get me wrong but it’s not used as a crutch to prop the film along. Most of the effects are practical & pulled off without a hitch.
There is a fair bit of gore in the film & while it isn’t anywhere near overwhelming, I thought that the film took too strong of a tonal shift from it’s initial comic beginning to it’s all out war between the gang & the aliens. But it’s not a deal breaker that’s for sure. The soundtrack is also something that needs to be mentioned. It’s percussive & hypnotic at times. You will find it hard not to do a little jig in your seat as the film progresses. Excellent soundtrack choices! The only other problem I had with the film is some of the very strong British accents that some of the characters had. I found it hard to follow certain conversations in the film, especially when there was a lot of screaming back & forth between characters. But once again, not a deal breaker at all. Just listen closely & you’ll catch on to what they’re saying.
This is director Joe Cornish’ first film & it was produced by Big Talk Productions, who also produced “Shaun Of The Dead” & “Hot Fuzz”. If you enjoyed those films (You did…didn’t you)? then you know exactly what to expect here. And yo’ll get it in spades! “Attack The Block” reminded me a lot of “Assault On Precinct 13”, John Carpenter’s cult classic about a abandoned police station under siege by a gang & the few remaining policemen left inside defending their lives. It’s a kinetic, pulse pounding, action packed hoot of a movie that never lets up once it begins. It’s near perfection as a matter of fact. We’ve been seeing a lot of “Alien Attack” movies this year (Skyline, Battle: L.A., the upcoming Cowboys Vs. Aliens, etc..) and this one, as of now is my favorite even though I’ve yet to see “Cowboys Vs. Aliens” yet. I can pretty much guarantee that this is going to be on my “Best of” list at the end of this year. It’s that f*cking good. It has been released for American distribution & is being released next month. Do yourselves a favor & run, don’t walk to see this gem! You will not be disappointed. By the way, the last five minutes of the film are absolutely smashing! You cannot miss this movie….see it as soon as you can!
Attack the Block is now available on Bluray per Sony Home Entertainment
Attack The Block (2011)
I was among the lucky few in 25 cities in the U.S. to catch an advance screening of Attack the Block. This film does not disappoint! Its very balanced in so much that it not too much of any one element needed to tell the story. Its Goonies meets Warriors mixed with Aliens! Trust, its the best thing I’ve seen so far this summer. Real kids ACTING like real kids! Incredible creatures that are more hunger that anything else all set in an housing development that would Chicago’s Cabrini Green an waking nightmare! SEE THIS FILM! OBEY THE BLACK SAINT!
I really want to see this. Thank you, Black Saint, for that great review.
I saw this in the theater when it originally came out (and bought the bluray when that arrived). I love the movie; it has a very British character and is both fresh and engrossing. I didn’t have any problems with tonal shifts as I thought it was handled both gradually and believably (internal consistency).
I’m glad The Black Saint appeared to like this winner as much as I did.