Review: Attack The Block

jason stives gets his brit on and reviews the new film from the producers of Shaun Of The Dead

In many ways, Attack The Block is very much a film all to itself, and great films always have that distinction of being unlike everything else that is produced. But this sci-fi horror film with a touch of comedy is effortless in being distinguishable and chooses to be fun and exciting for the right person who likes the above three genres.

The movie makes no bones about setting up the plot and get things rolling. It’s a no-nonsense picture. Set in a South London apartment block, a group of teens led by a fierce teen named Moses mug a young woman only to have a strange alien creature fall from the sky. After catching and killing the creature and using it as a trophy, their return to their apartment complex is met with a further shower of strange creatures looking to seek revenge. All the while, Moses and his crew must deal with a possessive drug dealer who claims owner of the block, the girl they mugged, and the meddling police out to arrest them for their troublesome ways.

The plot from here on out runs very straight and narrow, but it still has heavy leaps and bounds to go through mainly character establishment as well as giving a creepy atmosphere to the blocks extraterrestrial invaders. A lot of fun is had between the teens but that is quickly squashed by the various attacks from the aliens whose constant presence never leaves a real moment to laugh but to always be foreboding.

 

Somewhere in this Me Generation mashup of comedy, science fiction, and horror are underlying thematic elements that take away the disdain initial notions of the main gang of teens invoke. In truth, I did find myself for the first 20 minutes finding it incredibly hard to like Moses and his roving band of misfits, because they are simply punks. It’s a worn-out word to use in this day and age but as skittish muggers that don’t see the results of their wrongs it’s that development that is amplified, and that is the main theme of Attack Tthe Block — actions bring consequences.

We see all of this through Moses (John Boyega), a 15-year-old practically fearless because of how he has been raised. He lives in an apartment where his uncle comes and goes as he pleases, forcing this kid to grow up quickly and survive in the most unapologetic ways. Because of the troublesome aura he creates, Moses faces grim realities and reactions, and not every one of his friends has a happy ending.

This isn’t necessarily a film that illicits a strong moral dilemma to be had but does so surprisingly well after the establishment point. It’s all written there and with some stellar quick cut camera work making for some heart pounding scenes of peril amplified by the tender age of many of the films protagonists. Beyond trying to find some satisfying meaning to the alien invasion and the troubles of the teens, Attack The Block at the core relies heavily on basic set ups and a good-guy, bad-guy dilemma, with a groovy bunch of furry alien beasties thrown into the middle.

Yes, the aliens are not as aesthetically pleasing as some other well-crafted baddies, but the effective use of just a black mat of fur and glowing spiked teeth give a dark alley peril that normally isn’t seen anymore. When the horror is presented as being gruesome, it truly is if not on a slasher like level but still effective. Much of the film wavers on being constantly tense and while our bike riding gang of teens resemble a Goonies-like sense of courage they are daft know it all kids who treat authority as any lower-class kids would, or so society has told us this.

Director Joe Cornish has created a well-executed claustrophobic atmosphere, complete with a confined apartment tower and a constant haze of fireworks and dope smoking. This makes the more jumpy moments genuine if not overdone for the sake of keeping an aura around this apartment complex on the verge of a hostile alien takeover. The cast is youthful, and excited at their obstacles but scared to the core. Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz alum Nick Frost gives a subdued performance as the teen’s drug pedaling liaison but still throws in his trademark wit and cowardly ways.

What ultimately prevents Attack The Block from being a genre spoof is its possession of the literal mind. Daft teenagers filled with cockney dialect encapsulate a society so heavily built up on the me generation and being possessed by the media. Are the kids hard to follow at times? Sure, by American standards, British slang escapes a fertile audience. but it’s relatable to anyone born in the past 25 years. At best, Attack The Block is an intentional nod and a wink to genre lovers and a fun and very blunt ride for fans looking for a laugh, a scare, and a fight to pick.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (highly enjoyable)