Attack The Block
Review by Jack Foley
JOE Cornish’s directorial debut Attack The Block is a mixed blessing of a film. On the one hand, it’s a smart slice of sci-fi action that pays clever homage to the likes of John Carpenter and Critters.
But on the other, it’s morally dubious given his decision to focus on a group of muggers as the film’s main anti-heroes.
With the former in mind, Cornish deserves credit for taking a concept that’s usually the reserve of American blockbusters and turning it into a ferocious British urban thriller that mixes sci-fi thrills with comedy and a little social commentary.
In doing so, he also brings a hip young cast to the attention, many of whom now look set to have great careers ahead of them.
But the film’s biggest stumbling block stems from a screenplay that introduces us to a set of characters who begin proceedings by mugging a nurse at knifepoint and never really atoning for their original misdeed. It’s a flaw that in some people’s eyes may be terminal.
Thereafter, said victim (played by Jodie Whittaker) and boys are forced to become unlikely allies when invading aliens threaten to take over London and target their block as a starting point.
Much of what ensues takes the form of an Assault on Precinct 13-style siege as the boys – led by the silent Moses (John Boyega) – attempt to elude death by furry, sharp toothed ETs as well as the wrath of the block’s resident drug kingpin and the police.
Nick Frost even crops up as a stoner weed cultivator, thereby underlining the film’s ability to be compared with Shaun of the Dead.
In filmmaking terms, Attack The Block succeeds as both an occasionally funny crowd-pleaser and an exciting (and convincing) sci-fi horror hybrid.
The aliens are genuinely menacing, the set pieces well orchestrated and the cast uniformly excellent.
Boyega, in particular, brings a Denzel Washington style intensity to the role of Moses, Whittaker is good value as the feisty female who can actually hold her own, and Luke Treadaway steals most of the funniest lines as wannabe stoner and friend to everyone Brewis.
For these reasons alone, the film is worth seeing and deserves praise for once again showing that the British can mix it with the Americans.
Unfortunately, Cornish hasn’t created a total success and his screenplay ultimately leaves something of a nasty after-taste. A lot of movies boast anti-heroes of morally dubious means but without striving for as much social realism.
His early establishing scenes, in particular, sit uncomfortably alongside too many everyday headlines and make some of the explanations for their actions contained in his screenplay naive at best and difficult to forgive.
Hence, as entertained as you may be the majority of the time, you may well find a little something nagging at your own conscience afterwards, which kind of misses the point of this kind of film.
Cornish, it seems, is trying to have his cake and eat it… He almost gets away with it… almost.
Running time: 88mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 19, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- John Boyega interview
- Nick Frost interview
- Luke Treadaway and Jodie Whittaker interview
- Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Alex Esmail and Simon Howard interview
- Attack The Block Photo Gallery