Title: Attack the Block
Directed By: Joe Cornish
Starring: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Selom Awadzi, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost, Sammy Williams, Michael Ajao
Cue cheesy movie trailer narrator voice! What happens when an alien race goes head-to-head with a group of boys from the block? Get ready for the ultimate in summer movie season mayhem, as you’re about to experience an epic adventure with guns, creatures from deep space and lots of blood. In all seriousness, Attack the Block is what every mega budget studio film should strive to be. Rather than use and abuse familiar concepts and trying to spice them up with flashy CGI, Attack the Block maintains an alien invasion’s entertainment value while infusing it with novel characters, refreshingly designed creatures and an abundance of laughs, resulting in an exceptionally innovative and entertaining experience.
After a long day at work, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) heads home in the dark of night. Before she can reach her South London block, she comes face-to-face with Moses (John Boyega) and his crew. In the midst of snatching all of her valuables, the boys are distracted by a mysterious object making an explosive crash landing on top of a nearby car. Sam bolts, but Moses and his friends investigate and uncover the most out-of-this-world thing imaginable, an alien.
After beating their discovery to death, the boys head home to the block to show off the corpse to Ron (Nick Frost) and his boss, Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter), the area’s top drug dealer. While gloating, they catch site of another alien crash landing and head out to go two for two. However, this visitor isn’t an easy kill like the first and, before they know it, their block is crawling with bear-like black beasts with glowing teeth.
Not only is Attack the Block a wildly enjoyable piece of cinema, but it’s incredibly well done, too. First time feature director Joe Cornish’s brush strokes are all over this one in the best ways possible – a smart script, visually stimulating camera coverage, consistent tone and so much more.
Sure, we’ve seen our fair share of alien invasion films, but never like this. Rather than have his creatures come to take over the world, Cornish confines the action to a single council estate, making the experience far more intimate and therefore far more realistic – as far as realism goes with an alien invasion movie, at least. The script is packed with nuances making Attack the Block feel as fresh as ever, even with the recent release of the kid-driven sci-fi film Super 8.
A big part of the success of this film is the characters as their arcs are pretty incredible. While at first you despise Moses and his gang for robbing poor Sam, once their hoodies come off and you really start to get to know them, they’re endlessly amusing and quite likable, too. Cornish jump-starts their character development in a particularly smart way; after ruthlessly attacking a helpless woman, we watch as the boys head back to their appropriate apartments to arm up for their battle, getting the slightest taste of their home life and relationships with their family.
And the same goes for Sam as well. She starts as a helpless victim, but when duty calls, she mans up and arms up to help the boys beat the beasts. She doesn’t have the benefit of getting much back-story and it often feels coincidental that she just happens to pop up everywhere Moses and the boys go, but together, in terms of the film’s entertainment value, they’re truly unstoppable and unforgettable.
For as many characters as this film has, it’s really quite remarkable how each and every one manages to make a significant impression. Sure, Moses is our main man and Sam our leading lady, but Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones) and Tonks (Selom Awadzi) are just as pivotal. Esmail proves to be one of the greatest sources of comedic relief while Dennis thrives off his endearing loyalty to Moses. They’re not just members of a group, rather individuals you honestly grow to like, so when their lives are threatened it ups the tension tenfold.
There’s also two wannabe Moseses who brandish water guns in the line of fire and insist on being called Probs and Mayhem (Sammy Williams and Michael Ajao). No, they’re not as essential to the plot of the film, but Williams and Ajao are so charismatic and their characters so artfully woven into the script that, like the others, they become crucial assets. Similarly, Ron and Luke Treadaway’s local stoner, Brewis, are appropriately sprinkled throughout the piece. While Frost successfully enjoys dropping jokes here and there, Treadway merely ambles around high and seemingly useless until he makes one of the most out-of-the-blue albeit entirely digestible turnarounds.
As far as the camerawork goes, Cornish, with the help of cinematographer Thomas Townend, delivers a nonstop stream of creative visuals. Attack the Block features an extremely active camera, a risky choice, but here, it pays off big time. The lighting design is spot on as well, giving the film a harsh fluorescent feel while keeping the color notably bold. The creature design is also quite impressive as, unlike in most films of the genre, their look is just vague enough to take form, but not in such unrealistic proportions that the viewer scoffs at their validity.
This review would be thousands of words long should every single individual get their due credit. What it comes down to is that Attack the Block is an all-around success. It’s ideal moviegoing material, as it’s sheer entertainment, but also boasts an impeccable amount of novelty and heart. In fact, it’s such an enjoyable experience, you’ll be itching to see it again right when the credits roll. Believe!