- Rated R
All photos © Screen Gems
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t's easy to see why some studios might have been hesitant about distributing a movie like "Attack the Block." But despite the potential cultural roadblock created by the slang-heavy thick accents of its main protagonists, it doesn't change the simple fact that director Joe Cornish's directorial debut is one of the most purely entertaining movies of the year. A genre hybrid film with influences ranging from “The Warriors” to "The Goonies" to “Critters,” Cornish has created a lean, mean sci-fi action thriller that excels in getting the audience in and out without wasting a single minute. This is economic filmmaking at its very best, because while “Attack the Block” may not be particularly stylish or boast any big names, when your movie is as much fun to watch as this, none of that other stuff matters.
The film opens in a crime-ridden hood in South London with a group of inner city kids mugging a young nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) on her way home from work. When a meteor crashes down from the sky and Sam manages to get away, her attackers – led by the steely Moses (John Boyega) – investigate the wreckage, only to be attacked by an alien creature that they eventually chase down and kill. But after the kids head back to their apartment to celebrate, they notice several more meteors landing in the city and decide to go on the hunt, only to discover that these aliens are bigger and more ferocious than the first one; black, wolf-like beasts with fluorescent teeth and the ability to sniff out their prey. Unable to hide from the creatures, the kids go on the offensive in an attempt to protect the block and, in a twist of fate, the woman they terrorized just hours before.
When the heroes of your movie are no-good criminals, you have to cook up an even bigger, nastier villain for the audience to root them on, which is why pitting inner city hoodlums against a horde of vicious aliens is such a brilliant idea. Cornish has created an instantly iconic monster that is innovative yet simple in design, with the juxtaposition of the creature’s pitch-black fur and its incandescent teeth resulting in some really cool reveal shots and a few good scares. You can’t even tell how much of the creature is a practical effect and how much is CG, because they look so incredible in a natural environment that you’d swear they were real. Even the reasoning behind the whole alien invasion seems pretty plausible, and though the film doesn't have time to get caught up in a lot exposition, the little bit there is never stalls the rapid pace of the story.
That’s especially important for “Attack the Block,” because a major part of the film’s success is its relentless, almost infectious energy. The movie rarely stops to catch its breath (when the kids aren't busy fending off aliens, they're hiding from drug dealers and cops), and you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement. The kids also deliver some really good performances for a bunch of fresh-faced newcomers who were literally plucked from the streets (particularly Boyega and the very funny Alex Esmail), because it could have easily blown up in Cornish’s face. Instead, it only makes “Attack the Block” that much more impressive – a fun slice of nostalgic geek cinema that effortlessly blends action, comedy, horror and sci-fi to create an instant genre classic.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
Blockheads are in for a real treat with Sony’s Blu-ray release of the film, which includes three different audio commentaries – all featuring writer/director Joe Cornish with 1) the junior cast, 2) the senior cast, and 3) executive producer Edgar Wright – as well an in-depth making-of featurette (“Behind the Block”) that runs just over an hour long. Rounding out the set is a detailed look at creating the aliens (“Creature Feature”), a short cast featurette (“Meet the Gang”), and a discussion about some of the unfilmed sequences that Cornish removed from the original script due to budgetary restrictions.