Attack the Block takes place in South London where a group of five teenage boy friends roam the streets. They all live in a tall, slightly dilapidated apartment complex where their parents are either gone, at work or too busy with other troubles to notice that these kids have turned to selling weed and attempting to rob the locals. The head of this little troop is Moses (John Boyega); the toughest of the crew. His mates are all kind of along for the ride, but Moses means business. On the night of Guy Fawkes Day, Moses threatens one of his neighbors, a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker). Amidst the mugging, something bright crashes down from the sky and the gang heads out to discover what’s going on. What they find is an alien; small, slimy and a proposed trophy of the group’s superiority. Soon after though, the stars rain down with more beasties that are bigger, nastier and hungrier than their predecessor. The boys, Sam and the block are in for a long night.
Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Joe Cornish (“The Adam and Joe Show”), Attack the Block is easily one of the most entertaining, just plain fun movies of 2011. It’s littered with memorable quotes, perfect casting and a charming mash-up of horror, thriller and comedy that feels like what The Goonies under the direction of John Carpenter been at the helm in his prime.
The movie nimbly moves from people having their heads chomped on by monsters, or as one of the kids calls them, “Big gorilla-wolf motherf*ckers,” to hilarious scenes involving Nick Frost as a relentlessly drugged out fellow resident who seems quite calm about all of the madness taking place. Credit goes to how Cornish develops his motley crew and those surrounding them into a genuine community, leaning on one another and finding out that those next door might be better people that you’d ever realize. Moses even begins to help Sam out. She is hesitant, but he proclaims, rather accurately, “There’s worse t’ings out there to be scared of than us.”
Boyega is excellent as Moses, his first role on screen. With a gritty demeanor, tight posture and skeptical eyes, he turns Moses into the movie’s straight-man; an intriguing character that grounds the laughs around him. His fellow buddies are also strong, able to rip off a terrified look or shout a funny line with aplomb. The movie’s low-fi setting allows for one such moment to rise up, when the guys, due to their data plan, have only once opportunity to make a call for backup, little Jerome (Leeon Jones) panics and yells, “This is too much madness to fit in one text!”
Yet, Cornish’s movie isn’t merely funny comments draped in sci-fi/horror trappings. He really knows how to construct a us-against-the-enemy scene. Whenever anyone finds safety, be it the apartment complex or a metal dumpster, Cornish swiftly undercuts that false security. At a brisk ninety-minutes, Attack the Block is a delectable treat, never overstaying its welcome, while always remaining rooted in its characters, not nostalgia or pop-culture worship like some of this year’s other outer-space creature-features.
Attack the Block opens in Seattle in limited theatres today.