Movie Review: Attack the Block

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A group of teenagers and a nurse fight off an alien attack on their apartment block.

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Joe Cornish, 2011

During a fireworks display, nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged, her wallet stolen. When the teenage street gang members who robber her discover a strange, violent creature in a car, it attacks their leader Moses (John Boyega). He tracks it down and kills it, taking it back to their apartment block. He decides to enlist the help of Ron (Nick Frost), who agrees to store the creature’s body in his marijuana room until Moses can sell it. However, they soon discovers that the creature was not alone. Creature after creature descends on their apartment block, and Moses finds himself caught between the aliens, the block’s resident drug dealer, and the police. Sam and the gang find themselves unlikely allies when they’re forced to team up to defend the block.

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I’ve watched a few minutes of this movie before, but with my Force Awakens excitement at fever pitch and months until the movie comes out, I’ve decided to start watching some movies the cast have done before. This was at the top of my list. I’ve seen a lot of praise for this movie, and I can see why. It’s a very stylish, socially aware, low-budget sci-fi that didn’t do well during its cinematic run. And that’s fair, too. It’s hard to root for kids like Moses and his gang when we’re first introduced to them mugging a woman at knifepoint. They make for strange protagonists. Boyega portrays the quiet Moses with an intensity that is unmatched by his contemporaries. The strength of his performance and the film’s violence are balanced by a decent smattering of humour. Moses’s fellow teens provide some funny moments, but the comedic heavy lifting is done by Nick Frost and the very funny Luke Treadaway (brother of Harry) as beleaguered stoners. In a film that pits the leads against casual racism, police brutality, and scary black gorilla-bear aliens with glowing mouths, the humour is a welcome relief. Director Cornish makes some very salient points about race, but there are definitely some points about gender that are missed – the way the boys menace Sam and joke about it is pretty disturbing, and their only defense when she helps them is that they wouldn’t have done it if they knew she lived in their block.

The film looks really good for its $8 million budget. The aliens themselves have an incredibly clever design – blacker than black, they seem to absorb light, and the only way our heroes know they’re coming is when they bare their glowing turquoise teeth. It may be a man in a suit, but it’s a scary, cool effect. There’s a pattern to the patter that works well, too. The slang takes a few minutes to get used to for outsiders like me, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it’s easy to get carried away with the boys’ excitement and fear. The film has a good rhythm, building the tension nicely from the first arrival of the aliens to the final battle, and there’s a message about the consequences of your actions coming back to bite you. There is a neat little twist on the ending that isn’t too unpredictable if you’ve been paying attention, but it’s fun. The film is well worth watching, blending excellent scifi action with a conscience.

Attack the Block on IMDb

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