Monday, September 05, 2011

Attack the Block and Turning Things Around: A Movie Review

Director/writer: Joe Cornish.

Attack the Block is currently playing in various cities across the United States and Canada, including San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. The film involves five gangland youths in South London, who find the error of their ways during an alien invasion. This is Joe Cornish's first feature as a director and he takes some of inspiration from another famous director, John Carpenter. Full of tense music and creatures moving about in dark alleys, Attack the Block creates a suitable thrilling atmosphere while adding in elements of comedy. The film is not centrally comedic, as Cornish also offers a message on gang life and the consequences therein.

Moses (John Boyega) leads a motley crew into the streets of London, where they rob a young woman (Jodie Whittaker). Then, meteorites begin to fall from the sky. Inside each rock is a gruesome creature, who hounds Moses and his group. Initially on the winning side, the tides turn, as more and more rocks come crashing from above. This is a full blown alien invasion! Now, Moses must team up with his victim, while the film questions the negatives of gang life.

However, this is not a film entirely of drama. Nick Frost of Hot Fuzz fame offers in a stoner remark here or there to lighten up events. As well, the character Brewis (Luke Treadaway) shows incredulity when his car is destroyed by a meteorite, or when he is transfixed by National Geographic after a particularly heavy bong session. Also, watching a group of young kids fight alien creatures with squirt guns or firecrackers adds in a nostaligic moment that harkens back to earlier films like Goonies. In both films a group of youths go on an exciting, though unbelievable adventure.

Yet, this is really an adult film due to the violence and strong language. Some of this cockney biting dialogue comes from Moses. This character initially starts off as a villain, but a change begins to emerge. Cornish brings viewers into the lives of these street hustlers and thugs. Cornish has admitted he was mugged himself and afterwards he researched the lives of his attackers. He found a life of abandonment, as seen by Moses and a life surrounded by drugs and violence. Cornish invests a lot into his characters. The best part of Attack the Block is watching Moses change from the villain into the hero, while audiences will surely sympathize with Moses' tough living environment and lack of parental support. Cornish truly opens a window to a world that is not as black and white as some might believe.

This reviewer really cannot recommend this film enough. The use of London's inner city youth as characters has been used in recent films like Shank and Harry Brown, but here Cornish looks at both sides of the coin. On one side lies the violent aggression and stereotypes, while the other side shows a world of poverty, lack of parental supervision and the follies of youth. Creating two different but united worlds gives Attack the Block some depth, which is what made the film enjoyable to this critic.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (well rounded characters, excellent pacing, good music, lots of positives).

*partially funded by The National United Kingdom Lottery and The United Kingdom Film Council, for its message on gang life.

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