Attack The Block

Attack The Block

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Optimum Releasing 

Release date: May 11th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 88 minutes

Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Producer: Nira Park
Composer: Basement Jaxx, Steven Price

Cast: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Nick Frost

Official Movie Site

There’s definitely a monster outside. Is it an alien? Is it the police? Is it the teenage protagonists of Joe Cornish’s directorial debut? Attack the Block is multi-layered in it’s approach to South London, creating a world where no one trusts each other, even in the face of an alien invasion.

Attack the Block starts on a dark November night, with Sam (Jodie Whittaker) walking home and being mugged by a bandana clad gang led by Moses (John Boyega). As the knife comes out, a comet shoots down, meaning Sam can make her escape un-stabbed. During a scuffle with the comet, which they suspect may or may not be a monkey, Moses gets his face cut and endeavours to kill it in a typical knee-jerk reaction of bravado.

Attack The Block

Later, as more aliens begin to rain down, Moses and his friends (Alex Esmail, Simon Howard, Leeon Jones and Franz Drameh) tool up to defend their block, their friends and each other. The story throws Sam back into their paths, and so begins an uneasy truce as she both despises them and relies on them to remain alive. She has to decide which is more frightening: aliens or teenagers.

Comedic turns are provided by Nick Frost as Ron the resident pot dealer, and Luke Treadaway as Brewis, an achingly middle class, hapless stoner. They add lightness of touch to the film, and Brewis in particular provides a stark contrast to the lives of those who live in the block.

For the most part, I didn’t find the aliens that important to the movie. They serve to bring the characters together in a way that day to day activities wouldn’t orchestrate. The reasoning provided for the aliens swarming the block is smart and logical however, and though the concept behind the aliens is well-created, I like that they’re not really shown, other than a black mass with glowing green teeth; where the film excels is in it’s human characters.

Attack The Block

Complex, and both likeable and unlikeable, Cornish creates realistic portrayals of teenagers. Of course they’re stupid and irritating, they’re fifteen. Of course they make mistakes, but they are also given the chance to redeem themselves somewhat. They have consciences, but are products of their environment. After mugging Sam, they find her NHS ID, and Jerome comments that they shouldn’t have mugged her because nurses “don’t earn nothing”. When Ron comments “they’re quite sweet really, aren’t they”, well yeah, they are. To each other at least.

The film is slang heavy, but it’s not impenetrable and adds another layer of authenticity to the world that Cornish has created. All the more funny is Brewis and his clipped consonants trying to emulate the kids from the block, “jokes, man, jokes” has never sounded so ridiculous.

Attack The Block

At times, the social commentary was a little heavy handed. The display of community spirit in the closing scenes was particularly cloying for me, “I know them, they’re my neighbours!”, and, perhaps realistically, perhaps a little clichéd, there wasn’t a single father in sight. The atmosphere of the film was fairly tense throughout, shot moodily with plenty of shadows and darkness, the only light synthetic, UV, or from fireworks.

The soundtrack was provided in part by Basement Jaxx, and it’s suitably thumping and electronic, and definitely fits with the action and the violence. I was pleased that the gore card wasn’t overplayed, but when it was, it was done well. I haven’t seen an out and out neck rip for a while, and expected the camera to pull away. I’m glad that it did not.

Attack the Block may suffer from being over-hyped, but it’s a great film with many layers to peel through. Its ability to combine social commentary with humour with aliens is perhaps it’s highest merit.

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