People need to know about Attack The Block. Why? Because Joe Cornish's taut chase movie has raised the bar for alien invasion films everywhere. Hey Hollywood, you've been bested by a bunch of 16-year-old Brit brats.
Minor spoilers ahead...
While you may not know director Cornish by name, you've definitely seen his work. The long time Edgar Wright collaborator has worked on plenty of fan favorites, from The Adam and Joe Show to Spielberg's Tintin. But this is his directorial debut.
The premise for Attack The Block is simple: Five kids protect their South London "block" — what we call a project — from an alien invasion. But instead of following a group of adorably scrappy little rascals, we're saddled up with a pack of intimidating hooded bandits. Cornish wastes no time getting to the heart of the stereotype that surrounds this rough London neighborhood. At the opening of the film we see the gang rob a local nurse at knife-point. It's rough, but there's a reason behind it.
It's honest. While we were tempted to label this film "the Gremlins for the Xbox generation," we didn't. Attack the Block doesn't just appeal to a small demographic. Somehow, Cornish manages to turn an alien chase film into an deeply stirring character study about the kids on the block. And all without telling one single sob story. Not one time does a character reflect on the hardships of his or her life — if anything they make light of it. Which, at times, makes it all the more eye-opening to the audience. But more often than not, the audience is given enough credit to connect the dots themselves. Slowly the teens transform from a pack of Compys to actual human beings.
The actors. Yes, Nick Frost is in this film being delightful and hilarious, as always, but his role really takes a back seat to the kids. Not since the days of Haley Joel Osment's "I see dead people" has a young actor managed to suck up all the air in the theater the way John Boyega did in Attack the Block. Boyega, who plays the group's leader Moses, has a steely stare-down that will make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. And the rest of the group feeds off each other in such a positive manner, you couldn't help but get sucked into their world (and their fight against the aliens). The young actors are not only phenomenal but, thankfully, age appropriate. Cornish made it a point to cast local actors who are actually the age that they play, and we thank him for that.
The Look: Cornish shot this film on location at the municipal housing towers in South London. And while these giant structures were at one point the height of architectural futurism, they're now crumbling reminders of poverty. It's a marvelous juxtaposition of hopeful retrofuturism and the failure of reality to live up to our expectations. The setting gives the film a form of alien anti-wonderment. Instead of the Spielbergian family dinner shot of the Dad losing his mind over a bowl of mashed potatoes, these kids break bread (so to speak) on the couch of their weed dealer.
It's fun. The humor and action mixed together perfectly. There isn't a dull moment to be had. It shames every single alien film we've seen since District 9 (including Avatar) when it comes to pacing and heart. But most importantly it's fun, nail biting, laugh-out-loud, good, old fashioned alien chasing fun. As for the aliens themselves, you can see a little glimpse of them in the trailer above, but we're not going to spoil any of the beastly goodness right now. You'll have to see it!
The Music: The score is by the Basement Jaxx. Nuff' said.
Nothing much to say here. Perhaps some of the British slang will get lost in translation in the States, but we followed along fairly easily. Cornish is aware of the cultural divide and told us directly that he made an effort to build a lexicon of repeated UK slang so foreigners could easily pick up on it. Honestly, it's refreshing to watch a film that doesn't over-explain every detail and inside reference. This movie lets the audience figure some things out for themselves.
It's a bit violent. We're not sure if all of the bodies and blood were necessary. Most of what you saw was slightly off camera, but it was still pretty bloody.
Go see it, and tell your friends. Films like this only come round once in a while, if you want Hollywood to make better science fiction action films, then you need to support movies like Attack The Block. But besides all that, the film is solid. From script, casting, to execution it stands on its own.
We'll keep you updated on any future screenings.