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  Attack the Block Community United
Year: 2011
Director: Joe Cornish
Stars: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Jumayn Hunter, Simon Howard, Nick Frost, Paige Meade, Danielle Vitalis, Sammy Williams, Michael Ajao, Selom Awadzi, Gina Antwi, Jermaine Smith, Natasha Jonas, David Cann
Genre: Horror, Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Bonfire Night in South London, and the fireworks are going off across the city, but for nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) she just wants to get home after work. She chats with her mother on her mobile phone as she walks from the station, yet as she approaches the tower block where she lives, she becomes aware of a gang of youths standing in her way - and then surrounding her. She is terrified to hear them ask for her phone and money, especially when they pull a knife on her - but there is something else abroad in the evening worse than muggers...

Attack the Block was the feature debut of writer and director Joe Cornish, who had previously made his mark in British pop culture with his comedy partnership alongside Adam Buxton, gracing both television and radio with their presence to build a loyal following. Here, however, he branched out on his own, assisted by the equally culty Edgar Wright who took the executive producer's role on this (though Buxton does appear in a voice-only cameo if you listen out for him). Due to his background, many expected this to be a straight, rollicking comedy.

But the truth was rather different, as it appeared this time, though there were moments of humour, Cornish wanted us to take him seriously as he had a message for us. The inception of his movie had been a mugging of his own, where he was confronted by local kids and relieved of his phone, but apparently he couldn't bring himself to despise the thieves and got to thinking of how to stamp out petty theft, and indeed all urban crime for all time. Well, maybe he wasn't that ambitious, but he did come up with a solution that would band all the residents together, uniting the so-called United Kingdom.

That solution was a bigger threat for the residents, nothing less than an invasion from outer space which occurs when the gang we see at the beginning, led by tough teen Moses (John Boyega), are distracted from Sam when some kind of meteorite crashes into a nearby car. On investigation, they find a creature inside which slashes Moses, making him determined to catch it and kill it, which the youths do. Carrying the body around like a mascot, they only gradually latch onto the idea that this beast might have been at the forefront of that invasion and there are bigger, hairier and toothier aliens following.

This is the cue for some energetic if slightly generic running about, and running away, as the splendidly fearsome invaders (with glowing fangs) set about bumping off the gang and anyone who gets in their way, leading to an unlikely alliance between Moses' collaborators, Sam, who is forced into the position on relying on them for survival, and weed dealer Ron (Nick Frost) along with one of his posh customers (Luke Treadaway). OK, maybe Ron doesn't do that much, but Cornish's point was that those who could be described as thugs were by no means beyond redemption, a tricky proposition that he encouraged by making us see the gang through Sam's eyes, so they began as unlikeable and wound up heroic.

The film was assisted in a premise that could have been a woolly liberal/earnest social worker message movie by some excellent acting that refused to sentimentalise, and a story which recognised that you still needed action to make such concerns far easier to take. Therefore as we piece together what exactly it was that the extraterrestrials wanted, they attacked relentlessly, hunting down the characters like mad dogs and even catching them as the film was not reluctant to make victims, upping the stakes for the survivors. Yes, there were nervy laughs here too, but Cornish's application of an extreme form of community improvement was the major draw here, offering intelligent observation that might have been hard to implement in real life, but was at least no limp surrender or condemnation without constructive suggestions. The result was a refreshing addition to the alien invasion genre that walked - strutted, even - its own path. Music by Steven Price.

[Optimum's two-disc Region 2 DVD contains a host of featurettes and three - count 'em - three commentaries.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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