WRETCHED REVIEWS: ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)
ATTACK THE BLOCK
Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker and Nick Frost
Written and directed by Joe Cornish
Alien invasions have rarely been as funny or thrilling as the one depicted in Attack the Block. Edgar Wright associate Joe Cornish sets his sci-fi comedy in a poor south London council estate and depicts what would happen when vicious monster aliens meet the vicious local toughs. The result is hilarious and, surprisingly, has real teeth.
Attack follows a gang of teenage friends who, after mugging nurse Sam (Whittaker), kill an alien which has fallen from the sky. They take it to their friendly local weed dealer Ron (Frost) for safe-keeping, only to be inundated when other aliens, these ones bigger, stronger and nastier, overrun the block, forcing Sam and the gang to join forces to defend their home and neighbours.
Cornish doesn’t overplay the class divide between Sam, who is lower middle-class and white, and the gang members, who are of mixed race but defiantly poor; it’s obvious in the crowded, sterile apartments in which the kids live and their innate suspicion of the police. Nor does he romanticize their poverty, with the most insidious character being violent local drug dealer Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter).
Credit Cornish (who also wrote the film) and his talented cast for their ability to balance comedy with drama, often simultaneously. Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul) is the marquee name here but his is a cameo. Instead we spend most of our time with the kids who are under the leadership of the hardened but humane Moses (Boyega). It’s through his eyes that we see both the threat of the aliens and the threat that poverty has on his chances of having a future.
As for the aliens, the creature design is impressive, with the kids’ description of them as “gorilla wolf motherfuckers” being pretty damned accurate. Just throw in glowing eyes and teeth and a diabolical disposition and you’ve got a fair feel for the nasty things. The fact that they are mostly acted by men in suits instead of CGI gives them an Aliens-style heft and menace.
Even North Americans who consider themselves fans of British TV and cinema may have a hard time understanding the kids’ accents and slangs (one friend saw a subtitled screening), but stick with Attack the Block is you want to see one the year’s best genre outings.