Attack the Block is the directorial debut from Joe Cornish, best knownÂ in the UKÂ as one half of Adam and Joe, the comedy duoÂ responsible for cult favourite,Â The Adam and JoeÂ Show, a late night sketch showÂ that aired on Channel 4 in the late 90′s. Clearly all ofÂ those animated re-enactments of his favourite films using stuffed toys and Star Wars action figuresÂ paid off because this is a confident and assured film that is reminiscent of allÂ the bestÂ horror/sci-fi/action adventure/comedy crossoverÂ favourites from the 80′s, such as Tremors, CrittersÂ and Gremlins.
What makes this film’s confidence and overall success all the more impressive is the fact that itâ€™s not only a directorial debut from Cornish but itâ€™s also a first feature film for cinematographer Thomas Townend (who previously worked mostly on short films and in TV), it features the first film score by Steven Price and Basement Jaxx, not to mention that most of the young actors are unknowns plucked off the streets of South London.
Attack the BlockÂ starts on Bonfire Night in Brixton with Sam (Jodie Whittaker) being mugged on her way home from work by a gang of kids led by the imposingÂ Moses (John Boyega). What appears to be a firework explodes in a car next to them giving Sam the opportunity to get away, then when attempting to loot the car Moses is attacked by a strange animal which they thenÂ pursue and kill. Realising that itâ€™s not some kind of dog, as they’d originally assumed,Â (â€œitâ€™s raining monkeys!â€) they take the carcass to their local drug dealer Ron (Nick Frost) who they think may be able to identify the animal due to the amount of Animal Planet he watches (there’s actually a small cameo from Adam Buxton as the narrator of a documantary about moths that’s on the television in the background). Soon they realise that there arenâ€™t just fireworks lighting up that sky and that bigger and badder aliens are crash landing, so they are forced to band together and fight backÂ to protect their block. This includes teaming up with Sam who theyÂ discover to be a neighbour and Brewis, a stoned yuppie who gets caught up in the action whilst trying to buy weed (an amusing turn from Luke Treadaway).
I had been slightly apprehensive in the run up to seeing Attack the Block, worrying that perhaps it would be too derivative or borderline offensive, like Paul Andrew Williams recent Cherry Tree Lane, which was â€œhoodie horrorâ€ of the worst sort that played up to white middle-class Daily Mail readers fears of black youths. But luckily that wasn’t the case and, although relying somewhat or archetypes at times, the kids are all fantastic and in the end almost endearing. For me Attack the Block works on many levels, itâ€™s an effectively tense siege movie, it has some great creature effects (the in camera work and CGI is flawless) and a few scary moments as well as retaining a sense of humour without becoming a flat out comedy or parody which, to Cornishâ€™s credit as both writer and director, is a balancing act that few filmmakers manage to achieve successfully. The pacing is spot on too, with the film coming in at just under 90 minutes.
Thereâ€™s been a good run of British films made by first time directors recently, including not just Attack the Block but also Monsters (Gareth Edwards), Submarine (Richard Ayode) and the forthcoming Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine) and I just hope that despite the closure of the UK Film Council we can continue to maintain such a strong output, because as someone who watches a lot of films I find the constant barrage of remakes, reboots and reimaginings that weâ€™re subjected to at the local multiplexes week in week out more than a little disheartening at times. Attack the Block was a refreshing change and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again.
Overall for sheer enjoyment and good fun I’d definitely recommed this film, Iâ€™ve read a few middling reviews recently and it would be easy to nitpick, but I think a few minor flaws are more than acceptable for a first film. Attack the Block will undoubtedly make it into my top ten of the year.