Watch: Attack the Block

Imagine a film that will both highlight socioeconomic issues in low income UK housing projects, and also tell the story of adolescent hooligans thwarting an alien invasion.

This sounds like the first line of an overambitious final project proposal by a first year film student who will end up actually making a four minute animated short about a lonely hedgehog before graduating to work at The Home Depot. Actually, though, it’s a pretty good one line introduction to Attack the Block, one of my favorite movies of the past few years.

When I watched Attack the Block the first time, I was expecting a low budget, run-of-the-mill action comedy; run-of-the-mill meaning the action would be sub-par and the comedy would fall flat. Aside from the genre, I had no idea what the premise of the movie was which probably contributed to my enjoyment of it.

Needless to say, the effusive nature of this review should lead you to guess that I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s why:

  • The comedic moments were actually funny! The action was actually exciting! In today’s action comedy world where explosions usually play the role previously occupied by actual action choreography, and the use of “comedy” in the genre title could easily refer to the laughability of the plot, it’s amazing to see a movie with clever, witty dialogue, AND action sequences thought out a bit further than cool posing and slow motion (though both techniques make awesome appearances in the film).
  • Across the board, the characters were fully realized and treated as actual nuanced human beings; something you rarely see in movies featuring “disenfranchised youths” as either antagonists or protagonists.
  • While the movie obviously did not have  a budget as large as travesties like Transformers, the special effects were budget appropriate, good looking, and innovative.
  • The climax can make or break a movie, and the final scenes in Attack the Block are as cathartic as in any movie I’ve seen in recent years, with all the inspiration, excitement, and badassery that an audience wants to see in a finale.
  • The soundtrack fit the movie. No higher praise can be given.

As directorial debuts go, it’s been some time since I’ve seen a stronger one than this first film by Joe Cornish. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pull an M. Night Shyamalan.


2 Replies to “Watch: Attack the Block”

  1. Transformers a travesty?? I’ll give you that the sheer amount of lens flare is the modern epilepsy-inducing flash from a generation past of animated movies (i.e. nearly gave me motion-sickness), but c’mon. It was still fun. The scene where the good guy fights the bad guy on the highway was my favorite. Yes, that is indeed the best analysis I can provide.

  2. Attack the Block was definitely a surprise for all of the reasons you mentioned. Not that it didn’t have it’s flaws, but the pacing, editing, and characters moved you through the story too quickly to care. The aliens, while I’m not sure what evolutionary purpose glow in the dark teeth would serve (though seeing them in the dark would be pretty hypnotic to prey), were pretty great for the budget they had to work with. It just proves you don’t need $100M to tell a good sci-fi story anymore. More importantly, like you mentioned, good stories have REAL characters dealing with REAL issues. If the big studios could realize you could spend less money by focusing on stories and characters than action and special effects, they might take more risks on interesting movies rather than bet it all on 2-3 blockbusters a year.

    And MovMatt – Transformers, while not the monumental FU that the Star Wars Prequels were to everything that made the originals special – they are pretty horrible. Particularly for their blatant lack of most anything we mentioned that made a movie like Attack the Block memorable. I can take a shallow CG fest that feeds the adolescent inside me for giant robots wrecking things, but only for 10 minutes – perfect for a short film. 2 1/2 hours of mind numbing pointless action is more than any human should be subjected to.

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