Review: 'Attack the Block' Delivers Funny, Fresh and Fantastic Sci-Fi
by Ethan Anderton
May 26, 2011
Straight out of the United Kingdom came Shaun of the Dead, a film that simultaneously made light of and paid homage to zombie movies with spectacular results. Now the film's director Edgar Wright has thrown his producing support behind another spectacular film that drops some Brits and comedy into sci-fi with Attack the Block. This stellar film from Joe Cornish feels like it could've come straight out of the 80's as it feels like a darker, scarier combination of The Goonies and Gremlins with great respect paid to alien invasion/monster movies of decades past that moves swiftly and delivers great laughs and action. Read on!
Set in a small South London burrough, we're thrust right into the story as a band of young hoodies mug a nurse of her purse, phone and valuables only to be interrupted by something huge falling out of the sky and smashing a nearby car. When further inspection by the gang's leader Moses (Joe Boyega) leaves him with his face scratched by some kind of weird creature, they're not going to stand for that kind of disrespect. But after they quickly track down and kill the creature and take it for safe-keeping at a chief drug dealer's "weed room" in their apartment complex, a whole slew of the creatures come crashing to Earth, and that's when things get really interesting.
Suddenly our flawed protagonists decide to get all the weapons they can gather from a samurai sword to just a heavy chain and take on these creatures themselves. Pitch black and hairy with glowing blue teeth, these ruthless creatures seem to find the boys wherever they run. Without getting into spoiler territory, let me just say that the action and suspense from these films rivals plenty of horror and action sci-fi films with bigger budgets and more expensive casts. Here, this ragtag team of teens just makes for a fun but thrilling battle to defend their block from these fierce creatures.
Perhaps the greatest element of the film is its ability to suck you in right from the beginning with little to no exposition, and a complete disassociation from our initially unlikable heroes. You don't even learn most of the main characters' names until halfway through the film and most of the time they're just acting like some of the most arrogant, rambunctious teens you've seen on screen. But it's amazing how that doesn't make you root for these kids any less as they run, jump and bike around their neighborhood trying to survive as these aliens hunt them down at every turn.
Even as they begin to take the creatures on face-to-face (or lack thereof since the creatures only seem to have a glowing mouth for their head), they take them down in ways that would make Kevin McCallister blush. All of this happens to a stellar soundtrack from Basement Jaxx that shares electronic flares with Tron Legacy and really helps keep the film's pace moving fast and the chases that much more exciting.
Surprisingly, this film had less laughs than I was expecting, but not in a disappointing way. Very early on it becomes clear that this isn't Shaun of the Dead with aliens (even though Nick Frost has a great supporting role) as the threat somehow feels more real, and the comedy coming more from the situations rather than the parodying that the aforementioned zombie comedy touted. The laughs help ease the tension as blood gets splattered all over the block, and no one is safe from the aliens. In addition, there's some truly great moments of heartfelt friendship and redemption, even in this rough-around-the-edges gang of kid thugs.
Attack the Block is truly a breath of fresh air this year amongst big budget sci-fi films like Battle: Los Angeles and I Am Number Four that fail to deliver exciting action and suspense. Making the film all the better is the right blend of comedy amongst this alien invasion storyline that wouldn't be out of place if it were released decades earlier. This fresh sci-fi flick is a fine example that one doesn't need an outrageous budget and a cast of A-list actors to deliver one of the most fantastic pieces of sci-fi I've seen in years. The film doesn't yet have a release date in the US yet, but hopefully word of mouth and consistently good reviews will get this film the audience it both needs and deserves.
If not, I can guarantee this film will become an instant cult classic. My only complaint is that this film should maybe be called Defend the Block instead, but if that's the only nitpicking I can come up with, then you know this is one hell of a flick. Don't miss it!
Ethan's Rating: 9 out of 10