I got the chance to go to a screening of ATB a month ago, and this review sums up nicely why Attack the Block is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. It’s just a damn good movie from beginning to end.
Review: Attack The Block
At some point last year JJ Abrams sat down with Steven Spielberg and said something along the lines of, “I’d like to make a heartfelt alien creature feature starring a group of boys.” Spielberg said yes and the two went off to make Super 8 - a fine film in its own right, reliant on pastiche. Attack The Block is the movie Abrams and Spielberg tried to make. Where Super 8 reminds you of the warm summer movie time feeling, Attack The Block delivers.
Jodie Whittaker stars as Sam, a twenty something nurse living in a low-income high rise in South London. Walking home one night Sam is attacked by a group of teenage thugs, lead by the laconic Moses (John Boyega). What could have ended in disaster for our heroine is instead disrupted by a fiery mass crashing into a car on the street. Sam flees while the boys investigate the anomaly.
Thus is the set up of Joe Cornish’s balls-out screenplay and big screen directorial debut. Those familiar with the genre bending works of Edgar Wright (Exec producer), Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost (who appears here in a supporting role) will find themselves right at home. Block takes the familiar approach of fusing comedy and genre. This time around it’s comedy and sci-fi. Attack the Block is a charming blend of character earned laughs, ironic wit, intense action, and clever creature design without forgetting to stir in the warmheartedness found in Wright, Pegg, and Frost’s films as well.
Filmmaking ingenuity at its best, many of Cornish’s creative choices are so perfect and so well executed that you may find yourself angry at his ability. First, it is said that he himself was mugged and that’s what brought upon the inspiration for the film. While one should never wish a mugging upon another, if it inspired these characters and this setting…The notion of placing the action in a poor block in South London and having its protagonists be first despicable thugs and then eventual sympathetic heroes is not only an inspired move but downright impressive when he pulls it off. So much comedy, character development and intrigue, juxtaposition, and action is mined from its setting and circumstance you wonder how no one ever thought of it before.
And that’s not even mentioning the aliens. What they’re able to do with the low budget is miraculous and that’s largely thanks to the creativity of Cornish, the producers and how they formed the monsters. At once both minimal and enormously present, the creatures are truly unique. In response to Super 8, Kyle Buchanan wrote a recent article for Vulture entitled Movie Aliens Need a Makeover. He cites Abrams’ insectoid creatures as overdone, while praising the unconventional Lost smoke monster. Well Mr. Buchanan, your makeover has arrived.
The teenage actors show diversity and depth unknown by their American Spielbergian counterparts. A lot of it has to do with the script, but the stunt work, the scared expressions, the timing of pithy banter, the sense of danger and delight is all them. Boyega as the leader leaves a weighted presence in his practically silent role. Without saying a word an entire character history can be read on his face, every hardship etched into his skin much like the clawed in scars he receives early in the movie. (And don’t think I didn’t notice the overt biblical metaphor in naming his character Moses and not having him speak).
Attack The Block is unapologetic, unfiltered, surprisingly intelligent fun. The kind of movie that makes you believe in movies. Just try and wipe the smile from your face or pick your jaw up from the floor. This is going to be one of those cult hits (like Shaun of the Dead) that people talk about for a long time. And if not, they’ll all have missed out on something incredibly special.