Around the same time J.J. Abrams was showcasing his ode to Spielberg, Super 8, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block was in limited release and getting none of the attention it deserved. In contrast to Spielberg and Abrams’ penchant for quaint middle-American childhoods, Attack the Block is all about urban hoodlums putting their life of hard knocks to use when they have to fight an alien invasion. They aren’t going to share Reese’s pieces or heartwarming moments with the invaders – they’re going to fuck ’em up.
Sam is on her way home from work in South London when she is mugged by Moses, leader of a band of ruffian youths. The mugging is interrupted by the crash landing of something from outer space. Forgetting Sam, Moses and his crew chase the invader and kill it. Triumphantly parading around the block with their trophy, they get the local drug dealer to hold onto the body till they sell it to the tabloids. However, it’s not the only creature in town, and they soon find themselves dealing with a much bigger invasion.
One of the most overlooked demographics in cinema are children, cropping up merely when the hero needs to save someone, and rarely granted their own agency. There are too few films that remind you of yourself as a kid (or at least how you perceived yourself) and Attack the Block taps into that arrogant swagger we all had as teenagers. The kids are bigger than life, with director Joe Cornish keeping the camera angles looking up (never down) as they walk their streets like the gods they are, and with an equally badass-enhancing soundtrack from Basement Jaxx.
As the kids tool up to fight the opaque monsters from outer space, it’s all fun and games until someone gets their head chomped on. The perils of the sci-fi variety mix well with the real life socio-political forces the kids are stuck between. Poverty, the hint of racism, and drug dealers in the block keep the film from being a staid monster flick, and inject a degree of social commentary the best sci-fi/horror films always included.
Social commentary aside, it’s Joe Cornish hilarious script and casting decisions that makes Attack the Block such a great ride. The kids all have a natural rhythm to their interactions that speaks their history and Nick Frost as a leather fanny-pack-wearing pothead has some delightful commentary.
It’s also imperative to mention that Cornish demonstrates how to use slow-motion for dramatic effect in the final act (instead of mere visual titillation like most directors) and offers an ending appropriate for Attack the Block‘s heroes, one that doesn’t betray itself with sentimentality.
A weak soundtrack can leave a film feeling flat, but a soundtrack that doesn’t have the visuals to support it will feel forced. Attack the Block is the second-coolest film of the year, just behind the much-lauded Drive, as both have awe-inspiring visuals that back up their musical selections.
A mix of Seven Samurai and Assault on Precinct 13, Attack the Block is a comedy/horror/sci-fi film every fan should see. Believe.