A caustic, indie antidote to June’s Hollywood blockbuster Super 8, Brit comic and TV presenter Joe Cornish makes his big screen directorial debut with an intensely fun, possible contender for best film of the summer: Attack the Block.
Block starts out with a similar premise to Super 8: aliens attack and only a group of kids have the understanding required to do something about it. But that’s where the similarity ends. Where Super 8 featured a bunch of fresh-faced kids next door, Attack the Block’s heroes consist of a gang of junior hoods who start the movie by mugging a young nurse (Jodie Whittaker) walking home alone in the South London apartment block where they all live.
When something suddenly drops from the sky, the kids investigate and find a dark, furry, carnivorous space creature with glow-in-the-dark teeth that can run fast and scale buildings, and it quickly becomes evident that there are more aliens on their way.
Under the leadership of the stoic Moses (John Boyega), the gang members scramble to survive and protect the other unknowing residents of the council estate, ultimately teaming up with the woman they attacked at the film’s start. After temporarily taking refuge in the top-floor dwelling of a perpetually stoned pot dealer (Nick Frost) with a heavily secured grow room, they spring into action, preferring to meet the monsters head-on, rather than waiting to die.
The frenetic pace of the film never lets up, and never lets you forget that even though these hood rats are painted as our (anti)heroes, they are in fact only kids. There’s some misguided bravado, a few realistically silly decisions made and a morbid fascination with the creatures that only a kid could possess. One of the film’s best sequences follows the teens as they scurry down cramped stairways and through dingy corridors, bursting into their respective apartments to grab whatever makeshift weapons they can find…and give excuses to their long-suffering parents about why they may be a bit late for curfew. There’s also an amusing sub-plot involving a pair of 9-year-old gang member wannabes who call themselves Probs (Sammy Williams) and Mayhem (Michael Ajao) and are desperate to get in on the alien-fightin’ fun even though the older guys keep blowing them off. All the young actors bounce off one another beautifully, and because they’re unknowns, there’s a believability to their interactions that wouldn’t happen if the film were populated with mini products of Hollywood.
Attack the Block is dark, giddy blast that, refreshingly, contains real consequences to the action: there’s a boatload of blood shed, and many, many casualties. Cornish has created an excellent mix of John Carpenter (The Thing and Escape from New York), Walter Hill (The Warriors) and Joe Dante (Gremlins) that also offers something new and refreshing that confidently stands on its own. It may not be the glossiest of the summer alien movies you’ll see this month, but it’s certainly the best and well worth your movie dollars this weekend.
Attack the Block opens in Toronto today and is playing exclusively at AMC Yonge & Dundas. Check here for showtimes.
Wondering what else to see at the cineplex this weekend? Check out my reviews for:
Captain America: The First Avenger, Friends With Benefits, Horrible Bosses, Transformers Dark of the Moon, Super 8 and more!
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