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August 7, 2011

7

Movie Review – Attack the Block (2011)

by NIR SHALEV

Writer and first time director Joe Cornish has an intriguing premise: what if aliens were to invade our planet, but begin their invasion in a council estate in South London? Enter a group of juvenile delinquents in their early to mid-teens. As the invasion begins, they are robbing a nurse in the streets while fireworks explode overhead because it’s Bonfire night.

An alien crashes onto a nearby car and then runs away to a nearby shed. The youths chase it down and defeat it, carrying around its carcass as a victory trophy. And as they take notice of other aliens landing in their city, they arm themselves with whatever weapons they can find (samurai swords, baseball bats, and fireworks galore) and attempt to chase down the aliens and kill them. The kids are tough and they’re young but eventually they notice that all of the other aliens are much bigger, faster, and physically darker than the first one they’d defeated. That’s when the gang goes on the run, trying their best to return to their flats in order to hide from the invasion and, hopefully, not die.

The main cast actually stars actors as young as 15 and they all do a tremendous job of acting the part of delinquent but likable youths. To add to the mix, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), the nurse that they’d robbed earlier in the film joins their group and we also get a little bit of comic relief from the block’s drug manufacturer and dealer, Ron (Nick Frost).

The film takes place entirely during one night and the creatures that chase the gang fit in perfectly. They’re a strange hybrid of black, fluffy gorillas that have wolf-like jaws. Their black fur is so dark that it literally absorbs light. One can get lost in their fur and whenever they stand outside someone’s window, all we see is that the stars disappear. They don’t have eyes but they do have many rows of sharp teeth that glow in the dark, a cool blue color. The creature design is well concocted and presented, never feeling like CGI, and they’re fast and ferocious so we feel the danger that the gang is really in.

What else is there to say? The youths’ accents were bearable but their lack of proper English grammar was what made some of the dialogue hard to understand. Ironically, it was their idiom, so removing their slang would make the dialogue stale. The final 20 minutes action sequence is nice; again everything is in frame and the action is coherent. The performances are what mostly make the film entertaining followed by the soundtrack by once popular Basement Jaxx. Tron Evolution, Hanna, and now Attack the Block are starting a trend of electronic-based soundtracks. They all make it work because of the unique subject matter of the films and because it assists the atmosphere.

I’ve heard it said as a joke that whenever an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse were to break out, the safest place to seek refuge would be in New York’s housing estate (aka The Projects); or in this case: South London’s council estates. This film affirms that the above statement (no longer a joke!) is accurate.

I had fun watching this film but I didn’t love it. There are moments where characters simply talk and camaraderie is developed but those moments slow down the feeling of the ensuing chase. There’s a neat story here and it’s one of the better films that’s playing in theaters right now. It’s also in limited release so I recommend seeing this instead of playing catch-up with other schlock. Attack the Block is a combination of The Goonies (1985) and The Warriors (1979). It’s not a classic like The Warriors but it’s far better than The Goonies. And if that’s not reason enough to watch it then I don’t know what is.

3 stars


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Super 8 also has a strong flavor of The Goonies.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan
    Aug 8 2011

    The practical effects for the monsters punched up with some coputer effects worked perfectly. The end result was pretty iconic.

  2. Aug 8 2011

    Yes it was. But for me it was the best part of the movie, sadly.

  3. Aug 28 2011

    This is too much for one text!!!

  4. Miriam
    Aug 28 2011

    I really enjoyed this! You’re right about the performances, even the young teens are quite good. I’m used to UK accents so the dialogue wasn’t a problem; sometimes the vocabulary was obscure but teen slang is meant to be, and I didn’t have any trouble getting the meaning. I liked the scenes of characters’ interaction more than you did, perhaps, and was quite happy to have a higher dialogue to chase ratio. A little monster goes a long way for me; I’ll admit I closed my eyes when the elevator opened.

    It looks good, the characters are appealing, the story moves briskly, and it has a positive message. It will definitely make my ‘best of the summer’ list.

  5. Sep 2 2011

    Glad you liked it, also!
    I loved that Vietnam-esque sequence when they were in the hallway that was filled with smoke from all the fireworks. And the mosnters were awesome. Their motion capture was terrific, if any was used, and they looked like they were there!
    It is a neat film and I like it more the longer that I think about it. I’ll definitely revisit it on video.

  6. Sep 5 2011

    Once you realize that the kids are going to win, the fun comes from watching how they take out the invaders. The script is unpredictable, the surprises are clever, and the finale is plausible. If you wonder why hundreds of British police seemed powerless in the recent rioting, look no further.

  7. Sep 5 2011

    I like that the police were last on the scene (as per expectations) and that the alien invasion was seen as riots, from afar. A very clever script indeed.

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