A lot of people heaped a lot of praise on Attack The Block when it finally hit cinema screens. It was called things like the best John Carpenter movie not directed by John Carpenter, it was hailed as a great urban sci-fi thriller (“chavs vs aliens” was, I believe, the line that kept popping up in conversations about it) and it was, inevitably, heavily marketed with the fact that it was from the producers of Shaun Of The Dead. Which makes it almost equally inevitable that I was initially disappointed when I went along to the cinema to see it. That’s why I didn’t write up my review at the time, I just knew that I’d gone in with my expectations too high and that really wasn’t fair to writer/director Joe Cornish (still loved by many British comedy fans, including myself, for his great work on The Adam & Joe Show and even for brilliantly barmy moments like this).
So, Attack The Block is an alien invasion movie but it’s a bit different from the norm. We first meet our “heroes” in a mugging situation. Moses (John Boyega) is doing the mugging, along with his hoodie-clad pals, and Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is the poor victim. And then, while muggers and muggees go their separate ways, aliens start to land. Only one, at first. Moses and the crew kick it’s head in and take it up to drug-dealing Ron (Nick Frost) to get an opinion on it, where they also meet drug-buying posh student Brewis (Luke Treadaway), who pretends to be a lot cooler than he clearly is. Then the rest of the aliens start to land. While the police are on the lookout for the muggers. It leads on to some tense chase sequences, unlikely alliances and just “too much madness to explain in one text!”
With great acting from everyone involved, especially the younger cast members (and John Boyega will, I hope, go on to get many more roles), a fantastic score throughout and impressive practical effects for most of the action (computers would have been used here and there, of course, and the central creatures are given a helping hand with some rotoscoping technique to make their fur blacker than black), Attack The Block is never dull and should please most people who can enjoy the action and comedy blend.
It’s also impressive to see that Cornish, both as writer and director, never seems to take the easy option. His heroes are the complete opposite of traditional movie heroes (they barely even count as anti-heroes – just too young, too scared a lot of the time and the main character actually sets everything in motion with his attitude to everything around him), his set is an urban tower block and his action set-pieces build grandiose moments from the everyday and the mundane. However, with his eye on the big picture, Cornish uses everything within the movie to create something quite unique and fun and impressive. The film is built up of elements from the lives of the main characters, from the weapons to the dialogue about mobile phones and FIFA, and things lead to a finale that is as uplifting as it is full of tension and more confounded expectations.
There are some great set-pieces throughout the film but Cornish also undercuts some potential greatness with a few minor mistakes (many others have mentioned the journey through a smoke-filled corridor that, unfortunately, ends up being a bit too clumsy and fractured to maintain any tension). It’s not enough to hold against the guy when compared to just how much he managed to get absolutely right, and everything onscreen bodes well for any future projects that Mr. Cornish is a part of, but it is enough to hold the movie back from that 5-star, modern classic, status. Definitely worth giving your time to though.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: JOE CORNISH
STARS: JOHN BOYEGA, JODIE WHITTAKER, NICK FROST, LUKE TREADAWAY, ALEX ESMAIL, JUMAYN HUNTER, LEEON JONES
RUNTIME: 88 MINS APPROX