I’m caught in limbo at the moment as I want to review films whilst they’re still in cinemas, but have a backlog to catch up on too. It’s only going to get worse as the new Pirates of the Caribbean is out this week and I will just have to see and review that. Feel sorry for me, oh patient reader. Or tell me to get a fucking life. One of the two.
Attack The Block (2011)
There are two things that I’ve got to be careful of when reviewing Attack The Block so as not to parrot what every other lazy reviewer has said. I’m hoping by mentioning them, it will show that I’m aware of other reviews and that this one is superior to them in every conceivable way. Firstly, let’s get that tired Shaun of the Dead comparison out of the way. Yes, it’s a British made, Britain set film concerning fictional (prove me wrong, Universe!) creatures, it takes its cue from seminal horror films and it’s got Nick Frost in it. Still, Attack The Block is its own beast and comparing it to that zombie masterstroke is unfair (even though it’s right there at the top of the frickin’ poster). Two- at no point in this review will I attempt to sound like a hooded London yoof for a cheap laugh. It’s damn tempting, but I’d like to think I’m better than that.
“Well done, lads! You’ve discovered a species hitherto unknown to science and you’ve kicked its head in!”
Set in the estates of South London, Attack The Block opens, fairly controversially, with a nurse (Jodie Whittaker) getting mugged by a gang of stereotypical hoodies led by the rather intimidating Moses (John Boyega). However, their knifey-happy-fun time is cut short when an meteorite containing a weird rat/chimp alien crashes into a nearby parked car. The gang naturally decide to chase after it and kill it, triumphantly taking the body to stoner Ron (Nick Frost) for identification. Whilst in his 19th floor flat, the gang notice more meteorites crashing all over the city. Craving alien blood, they decide to get tooled up and head out for a fight. The plot is basically your standard alien invasion narrative transported to the London blocks, which works really well. The overall story may be fairly predictable, but the details have been changed, adding up to a new and fresh feeling experience. The cast are all really good, which is especially impressive considering about half of them are making their film debuts. John Boyega in particular was great as the sullen Moses and handles his character’s evolution like a seasoned professional. I also thought the kiddie duo of Probs and Mayhem (Sammy Williams and Michael Ajao) were brilliant and managed to avoid being tooth-gnashingly irritating like most child actors.
Debut director Joe Cornish (he of Adam & Joe fame) clearly loves the medium and Attack The Block is an homage to various 1980’s creature features and the work of John Carpenter. Having not grown up with these films and only seen the bare minimum, I got the feeling that I was missing out on a few layers of context throughout, but this is a minor quibble. Even without most of the intertextuality, it’s obvious that Cornish has a great directorial style and a real knack for visuals. I loved the design of the aliens and thought that the fact that they had glow-in-the-dark teeth was fucking awesome. I could have done with the aliens being scarier though, as we only really get a few jump-scares and the like to establish the danger the gang is in. If the threat was more palpable it would have added an extra charge to the already exciting action sequences. Having said that, there is a great, tension-filled scene concerning a huge number of them which is done really well.
Hoodies have been demonised for a quite a while now (so much so that a couple of years ago I happened to be wearing a hooded top and some comedienne-in-training came up to me and asked if I’d vandalised any trains lately. I’d like to inform people not in the know that I’m hardly intimidating- there are scarier Furbies out there than me.) and the decision to have them as our gang of heroes is a sound one. I did feel that the film leant towards portraying them as misunderstood a bit too much. I’m sure a lot of them are, but statistically some of them must just be violent little pricks.
Much has been made of the gangs’ speech and it is refreshing to hear a more realistic take on how young people talk. Newcomers needn’t worry about understanding the odd word as the script does a great job of allowing the audience to understand via context. It’s funny, but hearing this sort of slang at the cinema pumping out of the speakers, rather than from some little shites in the audience that won’t shut their damn talkholes, reminded me of A Clockwork Orange‘s Nadsat dialect, which really works in the film’s favour. If you are a Londoner however, it may just remind you of a depressing late night trip down the off-licence.
“It’s raining Gollums!”
I enjoyed the hell out of Attack The Block. For every flaw it had, there were ten great things to balance it out. It’s funny, exciting and it made me genuinely proud that a film as good as this is a British production. I’ve made this point before, but it’s nice to know the admission price is going to the British film industry for a change, instead of an obscene international money pile. So, go and see it rather than downloading it or I’ll come to your ends and merk ya.*
*What I think about myself and what I am are two very different things.