DVD Review - Attack the Block

Joe Cornish wrote and directed Attack the Block. Cornish had small acting roles in Shaun of the Dead (2004), a highly-praised, horror comedy, and Hot Fuzz (2007), a highly-praised, action spoof. Both those movies had British filmmaker Edgar Wright at the helm, and it's clear that Cornish brings a lot of the sensibilities and indeed quality of both into Attack the Block, his directorial debut.

In the United States, the movie was released a month after Super 8 (2011) and the two films do share a lot and are good companion pieces or kindred spirits. Both movies deal with children facing alien creatures on the rampage. Super 8 has a strong Spielberg influence whereas Attack the Block has the strong Edgar Wright influence. While I think Spielberg is the better filmmaker and is one of my favorites, I admit that I preferred Attack the Block more.

First, I give this movie a lot of credit because the cast here are mostly teenage, black actors who could do the British remake of Boyz N the Hood (1991). Instead, they are the heroes here. Having young black actors in this role is not common and handled well. Acknowledging the tense race relations and socioeconomic conditions that lend to the activities and criminal elements on display is also handled well here.

The story focuses on a group of teenagers living in a housing estate in London. A housing estate is government-run or public residences for people who need more affordable or cheap accommodations. It's a high-rise with apartments for poor people. It's comparable to what most would call a ghetto or what the young black teens in Boyz N the Hood would call "the projects."

If you are familiar with modern British cinema, you've seen the housing estates before and gotten a sense of the culture in them. If you're not familiar, I encourage you to check out Beautiful Thing (1996), Fish Tank (2009) and Harry Brown (2009). Those three films give you a sense of life in the housing estates. While each is amazing, they don't tell you how things are from the young, black perspective. Attack the Block does.

The point is to show that these young blacks are not what they appear to be or what your first impression of them is. There's more to these kids. When given the opportunity, they can in fact be heroes. The opportunity in this case is an alien invasion, which is extreme and ridiculous, but it underscores that point clearly and in a funny way.

There is a bittersweet aspect to it because, as we realize the potential and capabilities of these young blacks, it's sad because we initially see them wasting that potential by committing crimes and acting like thugs. Ultimately, the goal of this movie is to get people outside the community to see them as something other than thugs and hoodlums, which the movie succeeds in doing.

 When I say people outside the community, the "people" are represented in the eyes of Sam, a young white girl, played by Jodie Whittaker. The twist is that she's actually not from outside the community. She in fact lives in the same housing estate, but, because of her skin color, there is a misconception about her too.

Among the other actors are Nick Frost who starred in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Frost is brilliant as he always is. Luke Treadaway also is a part of the cast. I first saw Treadaway in the TV movie Clapham Junction where he made quite an impression. Here, Treadaway plays, a hip if nervous college-age kid who just wants to buy some marijuana but gets roped into this crazy ride.

The true star though is John Boyega who plays Moses, the leader of the teens who emerges as an action star in his first major movie role.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for creature violence, drug content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.


Popular Posts