Film Review: Attack the Block
Attack the Block
Director: Joe Cornish (2011)
Attack the Block (ATB), is another film chosen by my cool mum, the same cool mum who never completed Resident Evil Directors Cut on hard difficulty. This time, the film was accompanied by a classic beef in beer casserole; Hard life, hard hard life.
ATB tells the story of aliens, who sort of invade one of those generic tower blocks in London, that the world never knew existed until Kidulthood. It focuses on a group of incredibly unlikeable tower block hoodies, whose enjoyment of a successful mugging is interrupted, when an alien crash lands in front of them. They decide to hunt down and kill said Alien, because that’s what all hoodies everywhere end up doing in films, (Eden Lake, F, Harry Brown). The aliens respond by attacking fort generic tower block, while the hoodies also have to contend with the ramifications of mugging a nurse, as well as Nick Frost as a badly cast weed dealer, girls, some heavies who run the block, handing out class A drugs like they were tictacs, and of course, the enemy of all working class people ever, woop woop da police. Oh, and Luke Treadaway as a generic comic relief posh boy.
The hoodies, consist of five unlikeable, idiotic boys; they lie, steal, mug, embrace violence, and just do not say anything intelligent ever, but that’s the point, and Attack the Block is pretty good at making it seem like we’re watching the boy’s lives through one-way looking glass, under a sign that reads ‘look total idiots’. The boys are constantly chastised by everyone around them, fail, and get the senselessness of their ways described to them in every bit of dialogue that involves a none-hooded character. Oddly, this makes me like them………in a lemon juice on my open wound sort of way. What’s important though, is that the group’s well cast, their actions are believable, except for one little prick, but he spends most of his time in a bin, and everything the boys do makes sense. Which is called damning with praise, seeing as how that sentence actually translates as, the idiots behaved exactly like idiots.
Idiots or no, it’s a good job they’re the focus of Attack the Block, because the alien invasion is, and this is being kind, believe me, completely shit. I’ll use the first alien’s contribution as an example. Lands in a car next to the hoodies, scratches one of the hoodies face, gets punched and kicked till it runs through a fence, hides in a shack, gets scared by fireworks, dead. Keep in mind, this is the only alien we see any detail of, and it gets killed not by a crack team of soldiers led by Ellen Ripley, but a bunch of council estate hoodies armed with a knife and a couple of bicycles. The rest of the aliens are just black balls of fuzz so dark that they become invisible at night, except for an inconvenient set of jaws that glow whenever they seem to be thinking about attacking something, pretty big design floor there Extra-terrestrials, may want to rethink your whole approach to invasions if you ask me.
These black balls of fuzz are apparently males, and seeing as how we only see one female alien in the whole film, these hoodies may actually have prevented a mass gang rape, so at least there’s that.
I don’t want to sound too down on Attack the Block, it is fun for what it is, but what it is, is best demonstrated by its characters, kind of likeable, but with very few redeeming features. Take the lead hoodie; Moses, played well enough by John Boyega. He’s the hoodie that entered into a blood feud with an alien, so that’s one in the minus column there. Then, upon leaving the alien corpse in a secure room (Smart decision=one in plus column), he reacts indifferently to being handed a cigarette packet filled with class A drugs (minus), deciding the best place to hide them is in his sock (minus), leaving a big protruding square block that would, and indeed easily is, discovered in a police search (double minus). There’s a bit where the group have to run from a bunch of fuzzy aliens, he completely abandons his crew (plus), only stopping once he’s reached the destination to see if the others are still alive (minus). Fine in theory, but, I’m not sure he can count, as the group are actually a man down, (annoying prick in bin) but no one ever mentions this fact until bin prick rings up (minus for everyone involved there). Oh, and he gets one of his crew killed by hiding behind a sofa holding a samurai sword rather than helping him (even split). A samurai sword he then precedes to stick in a wall (back to minus). It’s no coincidence that the biggest compliment Moses gets paid is that he looks older than he is. Which is a bit like saying a fat person’s face isn’t as fat as their body suggests it should be.
Get my point? To be honest, for all his minuses, I actually quite like Moses, as I do the aliens. Yes they die quickly, and aren’t impressive or scary, but there are plenty of them, and it’s quite entertaining watching them take on a group of hoodies. The supporting cast are decent, Jodie Whittaker as the mugged nurse and Alex Esmail as the ‘funny one’ in the hoodie crew, particularly shine, and most of what happens make sense, except for a drug dealer who goes on an insane rampage, where he spends his time in equal parts, hunting down Moses, and balls of fuzz, but you can’t have everything. There’s also a nice pacing, and while some of Attack the Block is inane, stupid or just unappealing, it’s never boring.
It does however, get pretty shallow, the characters keep talking like they’ve suddenly decided to take part in a great debate about what causes theses ‘tower block’ cultures, and what isn’t being done to help them. The shallowest moment keeps reoccurring, which is when the boys, who, as established, are pricks, suddenly start blaming all their problems on police brutality. Which is funny, because, while maybe shouting slightly too much, none of the police featured in Attack the Block actually do anything illegal, or even questionable, even after two of them have been fucking killed.
This is definitely a debut feature to be encouraged by, and I’m optimistic about future Joe Cornish films, but that doesn’t mean this is a particularly good film, Attack the Block looks nice, but is really average. Not funny enough for a comedy, not scary enough for a horror film, and not serious enough for a philosophical film. It’s like someone watched Shaun of the Dead, and didn’t quite get it. Which may be exactly what’s happened because, that’s the exact film the producers of Attack the Block proudly associate themselves with on the DVD case. ATB is ok, but it’s definitely not the great British film some of the critics seem to think it is, or want it to be, because anything is better than Doomsday.
Written By Sam ‘I Blame Kidulthood for the tenfold increase in instances of me being called a pussy-o since 2006’ McKinstrie
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