“Attack the Block” is a British sic-fi/action adventure film from earlier this year. It’s the story of a gang of young street punks who, after robbing a woman of her purse, are nearly struck by a meteorite. When they investigate the car it landed on, they discover an alien life form. There’s a brief struggle with the creature where the leader of the gang, Moses, gets badly scratched. Vowing revenge, the boys all chase the creature down and beat it to death.
What they don’t know is that the creature is just the first of many – the invasion has begun.
After a brief period where the young boys drag the alien carcass around their neighborhood, showing it off victoriously, the meteorites begin to fall. The boys rush out to confront the creatures, but discover that the creatures falling now are much tougher than first one they faced. Realizing the severity of the situation, the boys realize what they need to do is to get back to their home turf. They need to get back to their building and defend their block.
“Block” is the first movie from director Joe Cornish, and he does a great job here. He does a superb job of pacing the film. The movie wastes absolutely no time in getting into the action, and once it gets started it doesn’t let up. Even when nothing is happening, Cornish infuses the brief downtimes with intense character moments and insanely cool dialogue.
He also does a great job with the young cast. John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, and Simon Howard are great as the gang members. But better than their performances is how Cornish handles them as characters. The boys do do heroic things, but Cornish never lets us forget that they’re really young punks. They’re brave, they’re tough, and they’re loyal, but we’re frequently reminded that they’re hooligans.
But the best thing Cornish does is to create realistic, compelling, small scale action sequences. It’s obvious he was working with a constrained budget, so he keeps the creature design simplistic. I’m not implying they’re bad -they’re not, they’re fine – but it’s apparent they chose a cost effective design. It’s the way the kids battle against them that stands out. The heroes flee on mopeds, in stolen cars, hide in dumpsters, use makeshift weapons, shoot fireworks. Everything seems relatively… credible. They take what could have been a weakness of the film (not being able to afford big special effects) and turn it into a strength by getting creative with their limited resources, but at the same time keeping the film grounded in its portrayal of how this street gang would defend their home.
Skillful directing, a script loaded with bad ass dialogue (though sometimes the accents can render it unintelligible), excellent action, good character development and a young cast that does a great job make “Attack the Block” a highly enjoyable movie to watch.
A- easily recommendable.