Review: Attack The Block
London’s hoodies are about to get more than they bargained for when aliens land in the city and proceed to take over their neighbourhood.
Directed by: Joe Cornish
Written by: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Nick Frost
Released: 2011 / Genre: Comedy/Horror/Science-Fiction / Country: UK / IMDB
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Attack The Block appears more prescient given the recent riots in London. Set on a council estate in the southern part of the city, we meet a group of hooded teenagers who proceed to mug nurse Sam (Jodie Whitaker) at knifepoint. When an object falls from the sky, crash landing on a nearby car, the event is interrupted and Sam escapes. The teenagers, led by Moses (John Boyega), investigate the crushed car to find an angry, bear-like creature with fluorescent teeth that attempts to eat them. They fight back and eventually kill the creature. Little do they know, there’s more where that one came from, and now they are firmly on the menu as the creatures’ first course.
Joe Cornish, who writes and directs the film, made his name on the pop culture sketch series The Adam and Joe Show alongside his friend and writing/performing partner Adam Buxton. While Attack The Block is his debut feature, the film shows no ill effects of an inexperienced director at the helm. Cornish has honed his craft with a number of prominent video diaries and documentaries made for popular BBC programmes such as Little Britain, and films including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. If anything, the writing and direction of Attack The Block is that of a seasoned professional.
Despite its relatively small scale Cornish benefits from some rather strong financial backing for a British film, making use of his pot of cash to deliver some fantastic set-pieces such as a claustrophobic sequence in a smoke-ridden corridor where the gang have to fend off a group of creatures without the ability to see any further than the end of their noses. There’s some brilliant improvisation too as the teenagers protect themselves through the only means they have – a stash of fireworks.
Yet, what is perhaps most interesting is that the protagonists are set-up as unlikeable wretches who prey on helpless victims. This is particularly prominent during the first part of the film where you aren’t sure whether you want the muggers to survive or get their comeuppance. But Cornish is an intelligent writer, thanks in part to his education at the exclusive Westminster School in central London. He highlights the fact these children (their young age cleverly exampled when Sam enters the bedroom of Moses and sees various toys and cartoon-styled bed covers and mistakes him for having a younger brother) are a product of the society they live in. The problem they pose is the result of deep-rooted issues that go beyond the simple cause and effect of them mugging somebody and being locked up by the police. For example, Cornish shrewdly makes note of the police’s inability to stop the alien invasion, adding to the problem rather than aiding it.
Attack The Block is an intelligently conceived and executed film debut from Joe Cornish. It features some lively performances including an amusing cameo from Shaun of the Dead star Nick Frost, while it neatly intermingles comedy with genuine doses of horror. With its setting and its protagonists its feels very much a product of its time, but that also makes it a wholly fascinating, highly original experience.
Attack The Block is released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on the 19th of September.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews