Attack the Block: from inner city to outer space

19th May 2011 By Rebecca Gillie
After leaving the screening, a friend of mine suggested ‘Attack the Quad’, a classically-scored alternative to this gritty inner city tale and, although Oxford stereotypes would yield many laughs I’m sure, there is something incredibly cinematic about Britain’s run-down estates. Attack the Block, much like many in its sub-genre of grimy street culture posturing, really does benefit from the dynamism of its setting and the soundtrack choices that such a setting justifies. The music is driving and moody, with the gang of youths morphing from a wild pack of BMX-riding dogs into a touchingly innocent young group of friends (mugging aside of course), seemingly at the drop of a beat.
The mugging in question occurs in the opening scene of the film and is swiftly interrupted by a meteor falling from the sky. This heralds the start of an alien invasion which prompts the group to spend the rest of the film fighting for the survival of their ‘Block’ and eventually themselves. All plotting aside, though, I want to get down to telling you why I’ve given this unassuming debut feature a full complement of five suitably extraterrestrial stars.

With a few experienced, dependable adults actors knocking about one could easily expect first time writer-director and all round talented guy Joe Cornish to pander to the reliability of experience, but that he shows unwavering faith in his young actors, with ultimately excellent results, is a testament to the talent that he looks to become. John Boyega as Moses, the leader of the younger contingent, is the stand-out find here. His brooding intensity is helped no end by the powerful presence of his glowering face, forever scowling but with much more expression than such a reductive description would seem to indicate.

On the inhuman front, something which looks to be as accidental as a good M. Night Shymalan film is Attack the Block’s aliens. I say accidental, but the film’s budgetary constraints seem to have given rise to some ingenious design decisions with regards to its growling, orally iridescent and otherwise completely pitch black aliens.

On the surface of it, Attack the Block may seem as frenzied and inarticulate as Boris Johnson in a blender, but under all of the bluster and hoodies lies a clever premise, subtly delivered message and, above all, fun. Unless you have a completely tin-ear for inner city slang, I defy you to not enjoy Attack the Block. If if I were of a Daily Mail disposition it is at this point that I would end my review by invoking some sort of appropriately colloquial terminology, just about recognisable enough for my audience to feel similarly validated in their ‘liberal’ credentials, but hopefully I’m not as predictable as Chris Tookey, whose review of this film is as painfully awkward as it is positive. What I will say of the film however in a much less class-aware manner is that you should go and see it. Now.

5 Stars