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.
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Super 8 also has a strong flavor of The Goonies.