Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Attack the Block

Let me tell you a little about Attack the Block, the odd, hilarious, all-together fascinating new British film from first time director Joe Cornish. The movie begins with a clumsy mugging that is hastily interrupted by the crash landing of an alien in the middle of the street.  Five teenage hoods (who, in terms of thuggishness rank somewhere between the twerps that follow them around, and the hardcore killer that they emulate) chase the foreign being down and beat it to death with knives, fists and fireworks.

Moments later, their neighborhood is completely overrun with bear-like black beasts, who seem to want nothing more than teenage blood.

So what I’ve just described is a flick about troublesome teenagers, angry aliens, and drab apartments.  Attack the Block should in no way work.  But boy does it ever.

When I left the theater, I was contemplating the difficulty of penning a screenplay like Attack the Block’s.  At face value, it isn’t really anything special (it has, however, been wrongly dubbed the British Cloverfield), and the dialogue isn’t intensely game-changing.  In short, this movie would fail, badly, if it didn’t have a handful of perfectly cast young actors fleshing out its characters.  The most prominent of which is John Boyega, who makes a startling acting debut as Moses, the gang’s leader. Boyega looks like a 15-year-old Denzel Washington, which is fitting, given the depth of range he squeezes into this 88 minute film.  This kid, mark my words, is going to be a massive star.

Jodie Whiteaker (best known for her role in Venus, the 2006 film starring Peter O’Toole) is also quite good, given the various emotional peaks her character has to hit and cascaded down from.  And all the supporting characters, every single snot-nosed punk involved, make Cornish’s words fly off the screen.  Much like Alex DeLarge, I wasn’t entirely sure what they were always saying, but you can bet your ass I was constantly amused.

Attack the Block is equal parts comedy, action and horror (three genres I don’t particularly care for), the result of which is a movie that is funny, freaky and ferociously brilliant. The camera zips along gracefully, and slow-mo’s appropriately, the techno-heavy score is loud, but fitting, and the direction is bold and seamless.

This is a small film; it’s played well overseas, but is struggling to find an audience here.  Shame.  If it finds steady footing, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Attack the Block considered for a few Oscars.  Screenplay and Score, most prominently; but my hope of hopes would put Boyega in the running for Supporting Actor.

A test of a great film, I often say, is one that you wish wouldn’t end.  Considering that Attack the Block takes place in real time, that’s about as grand a compliment as I can offer.  "Allow it," as Moses would say. A-


  1. that is one glowing review. the second one ive read in as many days. i plan to find time to see it this week if possible.

    you're in america right? so when you say overseas where do you mean? i heard it might not get an australian release due to its content. which is shocking.

  2. Yeah I live near Washington, DC, which has a decent amount of indie theaters, but I still had to travel far to see this.

    It's done well (or at least better) in Britain. I think it's netted $900,000 here. Real shame. I'd be curious to know what you think.

  3. it was incredibly enjoyable but i may not choose to watch it again. i'm still working through how i feel about it though. there were many great things but also some not so good. the ending wasn't built up enough, so it felt a bit of a let down after the fun of the previous 80 minutes.

  4. Loved it, and will be writing about it soon. I'm interested in your top 10 of 2011, too...interesting to see The Double Hour in there.

  5. @ Toby, that's a fair point, I just really dug that it got in and got out.

    @ Colin, loved Double Hour; it deserved a much better reception. I'm excited about some of the flicks this fall. Here's to hoping it's better than last Oscar season.