Film Review: Attack the Block

Alien invasion films are often grand in scale and set against an ostentatious backdrop. Attack the Block takes place on a council estate near Stockwell. Despite this, the movie shares many of the same conventions as its more glamorous predecessors.

On the same night that Moses and his gang of teens mug a young nurse on her way home, something strange falls from the sky. Moses kills the strange creature and returns with his friends to their south London council estate. Before they get home, the gang are interrupted by something that is attacking the block…

After a slow start, Attack the Block is plenty of fun once it gets going. Joe Cornish’s film follows a general invasion movie plot, adapting it to suit the setting. The film adheres to many of the conventions of this genre; not all the characters make it to the finale, for example. The characters are archetypal, with the unlikely hero, comedy sidekick and the innocent bystander caught in a usual situation.

The unlikely heroes of Attack the Block are a gang of teenage muggers. While unlikely heroes are commonplace in this type of movie, Cornish takes it a step beyond in asking viewers to empathise with and support these characters. The nature of the crime at the beginning of the film makes it difficult. These are not desperate teens committing crimes under duress. Rather, they are a group of teenage boys who pick on a single unarmed woman with the sole purpose of taking her valuables. Therefore, it is difficult to obtain a sense of affiliation with these characters, and to care too much about their plight later in the movie.

Cornish’s film is clearly a homage to earlier science-fiction/monster movies. Attack the Block can be quite gory at times, although these incidents are usually short lived. The method of dispatching the creatures certainly harks back to 1984’s Gremlins, among other films. The soundtrack is in keeping with the urban setting, and works well to generate atmosphere.

John Boyega is an adequate anti-hero as Moses. The young actor lacks conviction at times, but this is forgivable considering his lack of experience. Nick Frost brings humour in a small role, as does Luke Treadaway; the most amusing character in the film. Other performances are fairly good overall.

Attack the Block might mostly be appreciated by teens the same age as the protagonists. Sci-fi fans may find amusement in the references, while other viewers are likely to find the film entertaining, if not exactly captivating. It does not quite live up to the hype, but Attack the Block is enjoyable enough.