Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block may be the most fun film of 2011 thus far, and perhaps one of the most astonishing directorial debuts of the year. It is a romp that lightly parodies its source material while holding it’s own in the pantheon of genre cinema. Better, it transcends genre enough to become something increasingly rare at the multiplexes: a damned good little movie that actually makes you think.
The film follows a gang of troubled youths, led by the aptly named Moses (John Boyega), as their housing project is overrun by creepy creatures from outer space. The film posits that an alien invasion might not be as dramatic as films generally make it out to be. Perhaps instead of the usual “Take us to your leader” rhetoric, the aliens would land in an area where no one cares if it’s inhabitants live or die and let nature take it’s course.
I can’t help but bring up J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 when discussing Attack the Block. Where one is dipped in saccharine, the other is doused in acid. Both films follow a similar structure: kids discover destructive extra- terrestrial(s) and must bring a reckoning once they realize the adults of the world are unable to see the truth, all while learning valuable lessons about themselves. The difference, besides the gore and mortality ever-present in Cornish’s take but rid of Abrams’s, is in the revelations of the main characters. Moses’s sense of self in the Attack’s pivotal (and beautiful) final moments comes from inside; he is one with himself. Super 8’s Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) on the other hand realizes that he must firm up the relationships around him in order to live happily. The irony is that the film with the stronger message (and equally less patronizing) is the one that parents will likely keep their kids away from.
Finally, the “low-budget” creature effects in the film are absolutely brilliant. They are reminiscent of the eerie creature in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, but with significantly more bite. Just as in that Thai, it is the cocksure hand of the filmmaker that makes the otherwise cheesy costume come across as harrowing, terrifying, mesmerizing. Anyone suffering from CG fatigue will certainly enjoy these fuzzy black monsters.1
I can’t think of a better way to spend money this weekend than on a ticket to see Attack the Block. At worst you’ll get a laugh out of Nick Frost’s stoner comic relief. I’ll join the ranks and tell you to check out the film about a South London gang that fights aliens, but really there’s a lot more to this film than that. I can’t wait to see where Cornish takes us next.
Some of the effects are naturally computer generated, but it doesn’t feel like some piece of software spit out a space alien.↩