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rochefort [Film Festival 03.21.11] movie review scifi

Year: 2010
Directors: Joe Cornish
Writers: Joe Cornish
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 8 out of 10

"Fun. Lots of it. It plays as if someone dared the filmmakers to make "La Haine" funny... and put aliens in it."

Mere moments after Moses (John Boyega) and his band of teenaged South London thugs rob Sam (Jodie Whittaker) at knifepoint, a meteorite crashes into a nearby parked car and disgorges an angry three-foot creature from outer space. Moses and the gang don't like uninvited guests on the block, so they kill the alien and drag its body around as a trophy. Soon more of the alien meteorites begin to crash down, each full of a larger and even more aggressive otherworldly menace, and as the block becomes quickly overrun with the creatures the gang takes to the streets to combat the alien horde.

If you're a fan of BBC series "Misfits", then you'll have no problem getting into the groove with this, the debut film from writer/director Joe Cornish and a cast of what I'm pretty sure are actual London street kids. Cornish has had bit acting parts in Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", wrote a draft of the "Ant Man" script to which Wright is linked, and has additional geek credentials out the wazoo, but even those didn't prepare me for just how sure-footed and energetic his directorial debut would be. "Attack the Block" is the kind of horror/sci-fi/comedy that could only come from the country that gives us "Doctor Who", and Cornish and the young cast sell the nutter premise so effectively that it's easy to settle in and dig the obvious priority here: fun. Lots of it. It plays as if someone dared the filmmakers to make "La Haine" funny... and put aliens in it.

Balance-wise, "Attack" has the sort of handling that makes films like "Tremors" or "Slither" so effective: when it's a comedy, it's a comedy, and when it's horror/sci-fi, things get scary and bloody. But the real standout factor here is that Moses and company are legitimate criminals, wayward kids every one, and the script doesn't candy-coat their badness, opting instead to humanize them in small bits here and there. And no, none of them come off as truly evil at the start, but a thief's a thief, and the script doesn't pretend that these kids are simply misunderstood. They're definitely punks, but punks who don't hesitate for a second to defend their block once they determine that a threat is falling from the sky. As a result, when they wield their baseball bats and samurai swords and get to fighting, we're convinced. Additional props to all involved for wasting no time in letting the kids decide, quickly and decisively, that the alien threat is just that, and once they agree that the invasion has begun they arm themselves and go on the offensive. For us (allegedly) seasoned genre fans, it's probably tempting to think we know exactly where things are going from there, and granted Cornish wants this thing to play big so nothing completely off the rails happens, but there's a surprisingly high body count and gore quotient, and not all of these kids are destined to make it to the final reel. Try finding that in an American horror/comedy.

I feel like I gotta mention the aliens, mainly because there's something really refreshing about their function in the picture (this is slightly spoilery, so avert your eyes if you want to remain violation-free). The aliens in "Attack the Block", unlike a lot of the invaders in cinema of late, are barely sentient predators, their agenda a basic and fairly unsophisticated one. This smart script choice makes it pretty easy to buy the notion that these tough street kids, who live according to similarly basic and Darwinian codes, would be able to so effectively combat them on equal terms. And the creature design makes it obvious that somebody on the crew is a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fan, as their gorilla-like bodies are so black that light simply disappears into their spiny fur. The glow-in-the-dark teeth are pretty rad, too.

I've been reading that it's likely "Attack the Block" will be released here in the U.S. with subtitles to help American audiences with the thick accents and slang, and as long as there's no dubbing, that doesn't seem like too bad of an idea. I'm just happy that it looks like it's going to get such a release at all. The South By Southwest crowd voted this the Audience Favorite out of all the Midnight Movies, and the audience I saw it with ate up every joke and lapped up every bloody kill, but I don't think that this was just a case of festival hysteria. It's easy to see this one playing semi-wide and doing well, further affirming something that I think most of us already know: sci-fi is becoming the genre to beat.

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projectcyclops (11 years ago) Reply

Great review, and thank god this is better than the trailer makes it out to be. I'm a huge fan of Joe from his A&J Show days and was frankly worried that this might actually be quite bad. Really looking forward to it now.


ReplicA (11 years ago) Reply

Yeah, those kids are a huge disappointment to me. They look and act fucking annoying, and now the only reason I'll watch this, is to see some of them die.


John (11 years ago) Reply

Chavs - genetical inbreeding at its best -annoying and mindless.


nathan mcgrath (11 years ago) Reply

Ever since I picked up on this, I've been waiting for it to come round. It sounds a simple, smart, fun film. can't wait!

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