Tuesday, 17 May 2011

'Attack the Block' Review

'Attack the Block' (dir: Joe Cornish, 2011), Cert: 15

Joe Cornish (of ‘The Adam and Joe Show’ fame) has put down his radio microphone and moved from in front of the camera to behind it. The comedian has taken the director’s seat for his debut feature, ‘Attack the Block’; a Sci-Fi Comedy Horror picture which he has also written. Cornish has admitted that classic 80s cult pictures such as ‘Gremlins’ (1984) and ‘Predator’ (1987) were major influences on this movie – seeing as these are two of my favourite cult movies, it’s fair to say that I’ve been excited for this film for a while now. Well, I went to a preview screening early last week and here’s my prognosis on the ‘Kidults’ vs. The Aliens (better late than never right?)

 A teenage gang operating in the rough streets of South London unexpectedly encounter a conflict with an alien race from outer space. The gang’s leader Moses (John Boyega) decides the primary objective is to protect their council flat block from invasion. The gang and some unusual ‘friends’ such as Sam (Jodie Whittaker); a young woman who is a victim of the gang and Ron (Nick Frost); a layabout drug dealer, team up and prepare for the fight of their lives.

 Many have compared this picture to Edgar Wright’s fantastic ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2003); personally, the only reason why I can believe people are making this similarity is due to Wright producing the film and the words ‘From the Producers of Shaun of the Dead’ plastered on the posters. Yes, both films have man fighting off a foreign foe, yes, both are extremely funny, and yes, they both star Nick Frost – but realistically, zombies and blind gorilla-like aliens with aluminous green mouths aren’t that similar, and I really can’t imagine Simon Pegg spitting grime lyrics and saying ‘blud’ or ‘still’ every 43 seconds, can you?

 But enough of false comparisons, let’s examine ‘Attack the Block’ individually and find out why it is the best thing on at the cinema currently and why it’s probably the best British film of the year, no hard feelings Colin...
 Cornish’s debut is utterly side-splitting, visually engaging and at points, surprising scary. This film is clearly budgeted; the now deceased UK Film Council helped production and the assured hand of Film 4 only helps but it’s clear Cornish wasn’t trying to remake ‘The War of the Worlds’ for the current generation. In fact, what I believe Cornish was doing was presenting a comic image of what we as a nation believe to be threatening, and then juxtaposing it by the introduction of something unfamiliar – something alien. We all fear gang culture and street violence because of the media and the horribly nervous society we live amongst; you wouldn’t walk through Brixton or Hackney at 2am alone would you? Yet, the thought of an alien invasion sounds pretty cool, but in reality (or in the film’s reality at least), it would be terrifying. Comedy has always been so close to Horror; the link is undeniable, so why not exploit it? Wes Craven’s hugely popular ‘Scream’ franchise did, as did the later and indeed rubbish ‘Friday the 13thand ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ pictures did and Cornish has followed this successful pattern and has greatly achieved.

 The real success story however lies in the flawless script – admittedly the lingo might at first be troublesome to the untrained ear, but soon enough the ‘BRAP-ing’ and other gang catchphrases will wash over you and then the true comedy will begin. The script is littered with pop culture references that are actually funny, better yet, hilarious – there’s no joke about Facebook just so somebody in the audience can go “I use that! They said about something I use!” The references are relevant and embedded in movie cultures, If you are a film geek (like me), you will be frequently cackling at the silly jokes and puns. Whether it’s a joke about ‘Ghostbusters’ or video games like FIFA, the audience are always held by the huge quantity of laughs.

 As well as buckets of laughs, ‘Attack the Block’ presents gallons of action that is ferociously entertaining and bursts to life on screen. The bright whizzing colours of fireworks being launched at the aliens, the high octane chase sequence (on BMX bikes and a pizza delivery scooter, obviously) and a Super Soaker that isn’t 
spraying tap water are just a few features in the action-packed Sci-Fi romp.

Still from 'Attack the Block' (dir: Joe Cornish, 2011)
 The majority of the gang members were ‘Average Joes’; all unprofessional and inexperienced actors, and because of this, their performances seem dramatically realistic. If you took away the aliens, it would be hard to determine which members are acting as their character and which are just playing a scripted version of themselves. Boyega is fantastic as Moses; he has that beautiful blend of “bad man” syndrome sporting a tough exterior and a venomous vocabulary, and then a tortured soul with a damaged and broken past that shadows his existence. His performance is spectacular and I’m fairly sure we’ll be seeing him again soon, probably playing a “bad man” again though.

 The other boys also give great performances, particularly Alex Esmail who plays Pest; he provides the majority of the great jokes and looks rather funny too in his tasselled beanie hat. Luke Treadaway supplies a large amount of comedy too as the majorly ‘uncool’ Brewis; a Indie stoner whose desperate to be noticed by the gang, yet he fears them terribly. His introduction in the picture is absolutely hysterical and it’s certainly the hardest I’ve laughed at the flicks this year. Whittaker is wonderful as always; she lights up every scene she’s in and you really care for her character – Sam’s had a terrible encounter with the youths but she just can’t seem to escape them. Frost is very funny too but he is in extremely comfortable territory here – playing a lazy fat guy is like breathing to him but he provides the goods and indeed laughs.

‘Attack the Block’ is a cult film in a waiting room – give it three years and it will be spoken about like ‘Shaun of the Dead’, like ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Predator’ because this film has what so many films lack nowadays; charm. Cornish’s picture is filled to the brim with wit, gore and inner city dialect, but above all else, it never fails to charm the viewer, and this is why it will continue to succeed long after it leaves the big screen. Now I haven’t seen ‘Submarine’ yet which I’m told is the “best British film of the year”, but for me right now, ‘Attack the Block’ has pushed ‘The King’s Speech’ down a peg and snatched the throne and crown from Bertie.

 If you want an evening of pure entertainment with thrills, chills and spills, look no further than this picture. It’s the most enjoyable and riotous film I’ve seen in ages and I can’t wait to watch it again. Regardless if you’re a Sci-Fi fan, or if gang movies aren’t you thing – go see ‘Attack the Block’; you will have a whale of a time and will be supporting British cinema. Do it blud, still.

Wonderfully original, beautifully executed and above all else, stupendously British. This is entertainment.

By Chris Haydon

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