Directed by: Joe Cornish || Produced by: Nira Park, James Wilson
Screnplay by: Joe Cornish || Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadway, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost
Music by: Basement Jaxx || Cinematography: Tom Townend || Editing by: Jonathan Amos || Country: United Kingdom || Language: English
Running Time: 88 minutes
Attack the Block (ATB) is another fun, witty genre-comedy from the production stables of Big Talk Pictures, responsible for Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). The stars of the show are newcomer John Boyega and his motley gang of low-life thugs who, through the smart and scary script, are transformed into makeshift heroes overnight in the face of a sudden alien invasion. Yes, you read that right — this movie is a science-fiction horror-comedy with giant alien monsters. And they have really big, sharp teeth that glow in the dark.
It’s nice to see an entertaining, fun screenplay that has a clear arc for its lead, yet doesn’t rely on over-exaggerated caricatures to substitute for human characters. Boyega’s memorable performance as the reluctant London-ghetto hero is one of the film’s greatest strengths. That, and the partially goofy, partially terrifying alien monstrosities make for a damned fun adventure in the ghettos of London. The combination of likable child-characters with cheeky attitudes and a great sci-fi monster-twist, makes for a hilarious genre-blend and sci-fi comedy.
ATB hits all the right marks at all the right times. It establishes its unique mood, inserts plot twists and revelations to great effect, and is lead by a great cast of mostly teenage actors. Even the design of the aliens themselves, sort of a throwback to old-school B-movies, comes across as both nostalgic and fearsome. I don’t know how they pulled of that creative design, but it works like a charm. Most modern alien-designs, like the vagina-faced H. R. Giger-ripoffs of Cloverfield (2008), Super 8 (2011), and Cowboys and Aliens (2011), have grown repetitive and unnecessarily grotesque, so ATB’s style feels refreshing by comparison.
ATB also interweaves interesting social commentary into its story. Most of the main cast are poor, small-time thugs from working class families who, at the beginning of the film, are mostly concerned with mugging their wealthier neighbors. As the film goes on, we see some analysis of how police authorities attempt to respond to the alien threat, and how the presence of the part-time criminal minors affects their actions. Given the film’s appropriate placement of jokes and scary chase-scenes, it’s amusing to see how characters from different social classes awkwardly pull together to repel the monster invasion. It feels realistic and believable, and it’s also damned fun to watch.
My minor complaints with the screenplay are how some supporting characters are relegated to one-liner jokes once they become cut off from Boyega and the main group of survivors. That, and the conclusion of the film feels rushed for no reason. Why couldn’t they have allotted five more minutes for an epilogue scene to wrap everything up?
In any case, the houses that built fan-favorites Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz deliver again with yet another creative, intelligent genre-mishmash. The heart of each major release has always been comedy, however black, but they’re all great fun regardless of your preferences. The secret of Attack the Block is, like its predecessors, the smart script, the likable characters with their lovable eccentricities, and its unique flavor of visual comedy. Despite ATB’s disappointing returns at the box office on both ends of the pond, I hope John Boyega gets more opportunities to show off his chops, because he can carry a feature film on his shoulders. To that end, writer-director Joe Cornish did a fantastic job with the movie as a whole, and if this film is any indication, he’s a screenwriter and director to watch.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Attack the Block’s genre-blend of comedy, horror, and science fiction is terrific. John Boyega portrays the growth and depth of his protagonist with ease, and could be a future star in the making. The design of the B-movie style aliens are great. They are both hilarious and ferocious at the same time.
— However… some characters feel underused. The abrupt ending is rushed.
—> HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
? The biological explanation for the aliens’ arrival is the best use of popular science in filmmaking I’ve seen in years.