Attack the Block - SideReel Review
Sometimes it’s difficult to accept that the movies we love most aren’t exactly the ones that everyone else will flock to -- or even remember once something better has come along. When a film manages to hit us at just the right moment in our lives, we sometimes connect with it in ways that are completely subjective. Attack the Block isn’t a great movie, but it’s fueled by a sense of energy that still makes it somewhat irresistible regardless of its (sometimes far too obvious) flaws -- especially if you happen to fall within the age of the adolescent target audience.
Beset by a gang of young thugs as she passes through a South London housing estate, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is in the midst of being robbed when a ball of light falls out of the sky and destroys a nearby car. Frightened, she flees from the scene just before an unearthly beast emerges from the wreckage and attacks Moses (John Boyega), the leader of the youthful gang. In retaliation, Moses and his crew slay the creature, and take it to a local drug den owned by ruthless gangster Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) for safekeeping. Later, as the police assist Sam in pursuing her assailants, strange lights start to rain down on the streets, heralding the arrival of a second, more ferocious, wave of creatures. With the city under siege, there's no place left to run. Quickly realizing she's going to have to fight if she wants to survive, Sam once again crosses paths with the street-tough teens, but instead of running away vows to battle alongside them to the bitter end. Meanwhile, Moses becomes the primary target of the aliens, and the group arms themselves with everything from baseball bats to high-powered fireworks in the fight to save the human race.
Attack the Block may not be the most clever alien invasion film ever written -- nor the funniest, scariest, or most thrilling. The screenplay is marred by inexplicable character motivations and unlikely conveniences, the creature design is nightmarish yet unimaginative, and writer/director Joe Cornish doesn’t display any discernable sense of style to dazzle the viewer as the largely unsympathetic hoodie “heroes” make a bold stand to defend their blighted corner of London. All flaws considered, however, this occasionally bloody sci-fi action comedy remains compulsively watchable thanks to solid performances by the talented young cast and a plot that keeps charging forward for a brisk 87 minutes.
As Moses, the gang leader, Boyega displays a compelling duality that draws us to the character despite his reprehensible actions (and ambitions) early in the movie. And though the rest of the cast is most certainly capable, it’s Whittaker as Moses’ strong-willed victim-turned-ally and Luke Treadaway as a science-loving stoner who stand out the most. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that their characters are at least a little bit sympathetic, rather than the young thugs blindly following their misguided leader as he looks for an easy target to intimidate. Nick Frost, meanwhile, offers a few key moments of comic relief, even if his character is somewhat incidental in the end.
The “Hoodies vs. Aliens” concept that drives Attack the Block is a unique one indeed, and it could have made for a truly memorable film had Cornish opted to take the story in a grittier, more darkly comic direction. In neglecting to play up the outrageous elements of his screenplay and in trying to redeem an inherently unlikable character, he plays it far too safe and predicable to achieve true greatness. But if you just happen to be of the same age and mindset as the juvenile protagonists, it’s likely to strike you as something a bit more special.