Attack the Block (2011)

Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost, Danielle Vitalis, Paige Meade, Michael Ajao, Sammy Williams

Directed by Joe Cornish

Expectations: High, but I really don’t know what to expect. Heard there were aliens.

Who woulda thought that in 2011 there’d be two summer movies about kids battling aliens? Could the 2010s possibly be the return to the reckless abandon of the 1980s? If Attack the Block is anything to go on, I’d fully support that movement. Attack the Block feels like it is to alien invasion films what Shaun of the Dead was to zombie films: an awesome, “low-budget” ($13 mil) shot in the arm to a genre that had been overtaken by bombastic Hollywood bullshit. I fuckin’ loved Attack the Block and it is easily one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen all year.

While a gang of hoodlums mug a girl, a meteor falls from the sky and crashes into a nearby car. The girl runs off and the gang leader investigates the car for valuables. Instead he finds a crazy alien that attacks him on sight. The gang manages to corner and kill the beast, but soon they realize that this is only the beginning to one fucked up night.

The film is the début feature from writer/director Joe Cornish, who gives us a film so well-constructed that I was convinced the guy had a few features under his belt. The tension and suspense in the most heightened moments is intense and gratifying, and every encounter with an alien creature feels like a fight for your life. The film doesn’t rely solely on threats and close calls either; if you’re not fast enough, you’re gonna get killed. I love that this movie isn’t scared of the R Rating that the material demands and I wish American film studios had to balls to do the same.

My main problem with the film is that all of our main characters are criminals. This is a bold choice because it instantly puts the audience in an uneasy place (similar to what A Clockwork Orange does), and it’s definitely a hard sell as the film opens with them mugging a girl on her way home. By the end of the film, you’ve connected with these characters and while they still aren’t the cleanest youths on the block, they are the bravest. In fact, as much as it surprised me and put me off of the characters in the beginning, this facet of the film gives it its character and is a big reason it remains watchable and interesting throughout. With a standard group of “everykids” in those roles, who gives a shit about them?

Attack the Block also has what is probably my favorite score of the year too. The beats fit the look, the feel and the pacing of the film flawlessly. One scene in particular stands out in my mind as the best moment when image + sound become married as one. It’s when the guys first decide to go out on a hunt and they all quickly run down the stairs and into their respective apartments to grab whatever weapons they can. Everyone talks about the musical synchronicity of films like Drive or Hanna, but for my money Attack the Block beats them all without question. That being said, I found the overly orchestral sections of the score to be somewhat out of place, reminding me too much of lighthearted Tim Burton fare than an urban take on the classic alien invasion plot.

Are there holes in the story? I’m sure there are, but I honestly never noticed them because I was having so much goddamn fun. It’s got laughs, it’s got scares, it’s got moments of awesome gore. The creatures look cool as fuck too. You should totally watch Attack the Block, easily one of the funnest films of the year.

10 comments to Attack the Block (2011)

  • I agree with the music beat in that moment. It is also my favorite moment of the movie. I am a huge fan of the merging of music, editing and action in Hanna but Attack the Block did it well too.

  • By the power of Greyskull, we agree on a great film!!!! Attack the Block is a terrific film, and I have been recommending it to anyone I can. Glad to see you agree with me, Will!!

  • Glad you loved it Will! Joe Cornish certainly looked like he knew what he was doing on his first feature. I didn’t mind that the main characters were hoodlum because it’s so easy to sympathize with your generic nice protagonist so this was a nice change of pace.

  • Nice to read you enjoyed it a lot as well. It’s one of my favorites of the last year (together with Super 8 you mention).

    I didn’t have a problem with these main characters being criminals. Sure they do things they shouldn’t be doing, but how many movies have we seen starring criminals which were extremely enjoyable. I always have to think about the TV series The Wire where there really were no black and white good/bad characters.

    This will be a movie I’m planning to rewatch 🙂

    • I wasn’t so much a fan of Super 8, but this one really delivered. I never did see The Wire, but I’ll add your endorsement to the growing list of people telling me I should see it. Like I said, the characters only bothered me initially. Compared to other criminal-focused movies, I think I was off-put by this because they were kids treading that line between delinquency and real crime, and as a good person I wanted to see them make the right choice. Once it moved beyond that, I had no problem with it.

  • Nice review, I agree with your thoughts entirely. This was easily one of the most enjoyable films from 2011, and it is one that I try to recommend to everyone. It’s a shame that it didn’t get more attention in the U.S.

    • Yeah if I wasn’t doing this website and interacting with other bloggers I never would have even heard of this! That’s crazy. It’s too good to get swept under the rug like that. Hopefully people find it on DVD.

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