Cinema: Attack the Block
Writer: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Nick Frost.
Vicious, bloodthirsty aliens attack a vicious, bloodthirsty council estate…as high concepts go, Attack The Block boast one of the most intriguing of recent years. So does this aliens vs ASBOs schlocker deliver on its promsing set-up? As an atmospheric, gore-splattered B-movie…absolutely. As a realistic portrayal of urban youth culture…not so much.
Written and directed by first-time helmer Joe Cornish (he of Adam and Joe fame), the film begins in the South London streets surrounding Oval tube station. In a scene plucked straight from the nightmares of a Daily Mail reader, Jodie Whittaker’s plummy young nurse is violently mugged by a gang of knife-wielding youths. But before you can say “Broken Britain” something strange plummets out of the sky into a nearby car, and suddenly, the local hoodies don’t seem quite so threatening after all. As more of the extra-terrestrial critters crash-land into the local area, gang-leader Moses (Boyega), local pot-dealer Ron (Nick Frost) and even Sam, the aforementioned nurse, must band together to fight off what appears to be an alien invasion.
But what of the aliens themselves? Well on first look they’re not the most terrifying of creatures, their furry bodies and neon teeth making them look like something you might win at the fairground. That said, Cornish still manages to create some scenes of genuine tension. A disorientating sequence staged in a haze of firework smoke is especially nerve-jangling, and there’s a decent amount of gore on display too, particularly when the beasties begin to hunt as a pack…
As you’d expect from Cornish the script is full of punchy one-liners, his tension-relieving sense of humour proving the film’s greatest asset as the scares start coming thick and fast. As one of the youths remarks before another close encounter, “I’m shitting my pants and that, but at the same time…this is pretty sick!” Meanwhile, Frost (no stranger to this sort of material) supplies a steady flow of laughs as the block’s resident stoner.
The largely inexperienced cast acquit themselves energetically enough, but the one major niggle is the way the gang itself is presented. In the opening scenes they’re a menacing, feral unit, the sort of kids you’d cross the road to avoid on a dark night. However, as the film progresses, they’re revealed to be a largely good-hearted bunch, banging on about FIFA and pleading that they’d never mug anyone who lives locally. This lot might talk the talk, but compared to their Kidulthood counterparts, they’re pussycats. Whilst they have to be likeable enough for the audience to put up with them for ninety minutes, you can’t help feeling that this hidden-heart-of-gold shtick is a bit of a cop-out and it would have been nice to see a couple of thoroughly bad eggs thrown into the mix.
Still, it’s a relatively minor quibble in a thoroughly enjoyable slice of sci-fi silliness. One thing’s for certain, if an alien invasion ever kicks off for real, we’re heading down to Stockwell, sharpish!
By George Wales.
Attack the Block is released 13 May via Optimum Releasing.