Director: Joe Cornish
Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway, John Boyega, Terry Notary, Joey Ansah
RunTime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: M18 (Coarse Language and Some Gore)
Official Website: http://www.attacktheblock-movie.com/
Opening Day: 29 September 2011
Synopsis: ATTACK THE BLOCK is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing estate into a sci-fi playground. A tower block into a fortress under siege. And teenage street kids into heroes. It's inner city versus outer space.
Trainee nurse Sam is walking home to her flat in a scary South London tower block when she's robbed by a gang of masked, hooded youths. She's saved when the gang are distracted by a bright meteorite, which falls from the sky and hits a nearby parked car. Sam flees, just before the gang are attacked by a small alien creature that leaps from the wreckage. The gang chase the creature and kill it, dragging its ghoulish carcass to the top of the block, which they treat as their territory.
While Sam and the police hunt for the gang, a second wave of meteors fall. Confident of victory against such feeble invaders, the gang grab weapons, mount bikes and mopeds, and set out to defend their turf. But this time, the creatures are bigger. Much bigger. Savage, shadowy and bestial, they are hunting their fallen comrade and nothing will stand in their way. The estate is about to become a battleground. And the bunch of no-hope kids who just attacked Sam are about to become her, and the block's, only hope.
Who says we have run out of ways by which the Earth could be invaded by extraterrestrials? Whereas Hollywood studio bigwigs and their go-to directors may be guilty of recycling the same ideas for standard big-budget spectacle (think this summer’s expensive flop ‘Cowboys and Aliens’), first-time feature directors seem to have less of a creative limit in pitting humans against aliens. Last summer’s ‘District 13’ was South African director Neill Blomkamp’s impressive attempt at infusing social commentary into the genre, and ‘Attack the Block’ sees Brit comedian-TV presenter do the same- albeit with a generous dose of dry British humour- to deliver a smart, funny and extremely entertaining alien invasion picture.
Unfolding over the course of a single night on a council housing estate in South London, Cornish pits five teenage delinquents against a band of part-dog part-ape alien monsters with inky black (think the ‘blackest’ black you can ever imagine) fur and sharp glow-in-the-dark teeth. The crew of young gangsters aren’t your typical heroes- led by the tough-talking Moses (John Boyega), the quintet are first seen robbing Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a trainee nurse on her way home after work. An apparent meteor crash that brings the first of the beasts down midway through the robbery distracts them, and Sam seizes the opportunity to flee.
The group give chase when they realise they might have spotted an alien, and in a display of false bravado, slay the creature and stash it at the penthouse (if you can call it) unit of a certain weed dealer called Ron (Nick Frost) - while contemplating how to make a quick stash out of it on eBay. But before they have time to think, dozens of other extraterrestrial beings begin to descend across the night sky, and the hoodlums are forced to turn into heroes to protect their block and its residents from the impending attack. In a stroke of brilliant scripting, the gangbangers discover that Sam stays in the same block, leading both victim and assailants to eventually team up and fight the same threat.
Indeed, the film pulls off a remarkable sleight of hand by turning its audience’s initial contempt towards the quintet into sympathy and even admiration, as they rise to the occasion to save the day. The fact that they do so with just everyday items like bikes, brooms, baseball bats and firework sticks also reinforces their heroism, and makes them even more endearing. Despite juggling a plethora of characters, Cornish brings each of our five delinquent heroes into sharp focus, and gives them each- Moses, Dennis, Jerome, Pest and Biggz- distinct personalities to allow his audience to relate to every single one.
As deft as his writing skills are, Cornish proves to have just as much panache in his directing. From start to finish, there is an undeniable energy to every frame in the story, and the briskly paced film possesses not one single dull moment. Cornish also makes obvious reference to classic ‘80s monster movies like ‘The Thing’ and ‘Gremlins’, and genre fans will certainly be delighted at the visual style of the movie. The action is continuous, but great use of the inner-city block location means that none of the scenes are repetitive and each is as thrilling as the next.
Speaking of location, Cornish’s choice to go with unknown actors in the lead roles works beautifully, giving his film a raw authentic feel. Admittedly, the heavy accents and slang-filled dialogue does take some getting used to, but they add, rather than diminish, the fun to be had- especially in their street-lingo delivery of Cornish’s deadpan humour. The rest of the mostly fresh actors also lend flourish to their supporting roles- whether the two young street urchins who go around with their super soakers looking for a piece of the action, or the white educated stoner Brewis (nicely played by Luke Treadway) seemingly out of his place, or the dirty-talking violent criminal and wannabe-rapper Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter).
Credit also has to go to Steven Price’s energetic score (aided by Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe of dance-music duo Basement Jaxx) as well as Johnathan Amos’s editing that gives the movie its lively, pulsating rhythm. With the singular contributions of each and every one involved in the movie, ‘Attack the Block’ is an alien invasion picture that has enough appeal, wit, and thrills to rival the best in the genre. And indeed, it already has become a career-defining start for writer/director Cornish, who has gone on to co-write the screenplay for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s upcoming “The Adventures of Tintin”- but really, once you see the amount of talent on display in this debut feature, you’ll have no doubts why.
(Witty, lively and enormously entertaining humans-vs-aliens adventure that is sure to be a genre-defining classic in the years to come)
Review by Gabriel Chong