Review: Attack the Block

Attack the Block | Joe Cornish, 2011

This year has seen the release of four American alien invasion films. The first one was Battle: Los Angeles, which ended being one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen due to its pointlessness and lousy propaganda. The second one was the J.J. Abrams-directed Super 8. That one delivered on its promise of being a Steven Spielberg homage, and for that reason, it is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. The third one was Transformer: Dark of the Moon. I didn’t even bother with it, or the fourth alien invasion movie of the year, Cowboys & Aliens. But the best movie from this genre to be released this year is not any one of these, but rather a semi low budget movie from England simply called Attack the Block. Not only that, it is actually the best alien invasion movie I’ve ever seen.

Attack the Block opens with Sam (Jodie Whittaker), walking back home from her job. On the way home, she is mugged by Moses (John Boyega) and his gang. As the mugging is happening, something falls nearby them. As they are investigating, something attacks Moses. Moses being a tough hoodlum from the ghetto runs after it to kill it. Moments later, many more aliens arrive to this block in South London, and so, Moses and company decide to show the aliens who’s the boss.

The thing that sets this movie apart from others of its kind I’ve seen is that it’s much smaller in scale. By setting the invasion in only a ghetto part of London, the last place one would expect aliens to attack, we have a greater opportunity to care about what happens, and we get to know our characters more since there are no cutaways to see what is happening in the rest of the world. It is more personal, and that made it even more awesome. Credit goes to Joe Cornish for writing such a tight and fun screenplay, that not only works as a straight sci-fi movie, but it also gives us great comedy, great characters, and most important of all, a heart. This movie is not some Michael Bay spectacle where shit blows up real good. Well, shit does blow up real good, but there is meaning behind all of these things. Underneath the action and the visual effects, we find a movie that actually has something to say. It’s about growing up, about taking control of your life and improve it, taking responsibility for your actions, and it’s also a sharp commentary on the way of life of the people that live in the London ghettos.

But of course that’s not the only reason this movie is awesome. It is one of the greatest visual spectacles of the year. Sure, it’s not as glossy and shiny as Rise of  the Planet of the Apes or Transformers 3, but the filmmakers do their best with what they had. First off, Joe Cornish sure knows how to shoot action and create tension. Also, he knew what was needed to revitalize this sub genre, and he did just that. And his cinematographer, editor, etc did a gangbuster job in making sure his vision was translated to the screen properly. It may not have the best cinematography or the most realistic effects, but they make it work. And I must say that I loved the design of the aliens and the sounds they make.

And another great thing Cornish did was getting fantastic performances from his young and inexperienced cast. Everyone is fantastic, but the absolute best is John Boyega as Moses. It may seem that it is not such hard character to play, but there is so much stuff going on beneath what we see, and Boyega handled it all perfectly. I hope that he has a bright future and I’m sure he’ll be great in that TV show based on Mike Tyson’s life. Another stand out is Jodie Whittaker. Sure, she’s kind of just there to act as the voice of reason among the chaos, but she’s so good. She kind of reminded me of Emily Mortimer, not only in looks, but also in the warmness that she always brings to her characters. From Moses’s posse, the best has to be Alex Esmail as Pest. He gets some of the funniest lines, and he delivers them perfectly. Oh, and the two kids that are running around trying to be bad asses are awesome.

Attack the Block is not only the best movie of the summer, but also one of the best movies of the year. It is smart, hilarious, and thrilling, something that most big blockbusters fail to do nowadays. Can’t wait to watch it again, and again.

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