Written and directed by Joe Cornish
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
I absolutely fell in love with writer/director Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block back in July when it hit a very limited number of theaters during its brief theatrical run, and after revisiting the flick (for the fourth time this year) on Blu-ray this week, I was impressed to see that Cornish’s story still manages to maintain both its energy and entertainment value even while sitting at home alone. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more inventive and enjoyable film this year than Attack the Block, and what Sony delivers for us BlockHeads on its Blu-ray presentation is downright perfection.
If you missed Attack the Block in theaters, the flick takes off running when a rag-tag gang of hoodlums from South London decide to mug a young woman named Sam (Whittaker) on her way home from work. Their crime doesn’t go exactly according to plan as the thugs are interrupted by an incoming meteor of sorts that crash lands into a car parked nearby.
Inside the falling meteor is a small alien that attacks gang leader Moses (Boyega) and quickly scurries off to safety. But Moses being the tough guy he is takes exception to the attack and decides to hunt the alien down and kill it in retaliation. After declaring victory over the alien, Moses soon realizes that the creature may have some value so he decides to stash his conquest in the home of a local drug dealer. However, the young group of rebels soon comes to realize that the alien they killed wasn’t alone, and now it’s up to them to defend their “block” against the invaders before the creatures take them out, one by one.
Attack the Block is like a love-letter to so many of my favorite films that I discovered as a child growing up during the 80s; yet, what makes Attack the Block something of a rarity these days is that it cleverly walks the homage line and manages to never come off feeling like it’s trying to rip-off any of the films its paying tribute to. With hints of ET, The Monster Squad, The Warriors and Goonies, Attack the Block is easily the best alien-themed flick of the year (sorry Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens).
What also makes Attack the Block somewhat of a standout is Cornish’s incredibly intelligent script which cleverly explores of the concept of territoriality in lower-income housing as well as society’s portrayal of the troubled youth culture. It’s a rarity in genre filmmaking to get stories that not only feel socially relevant but also manage to deliver top-notch edge-of-your-seat entertainment as well. Don’t worry- Attack the Blocknever gets preachy since filmmaker Cornish is too busy keeping us either laughing or terrified throughout the film to ever let the story get too heavy-handed.
The most impressive aspect to Attack the Block (beyond Cornish’s overall approach) has to be the genuinely talented cast of mostly fresh faces the director assembled to bring this story to life. It’s a remarkable feat to have a movie be comprised mainly of fresh talent that have never been in a movie before and pull that off successfully, but Cornish clearly has an eye for talent because every single performance in Attack the Blockis raw and compelling. While there are a few veteran actors in the film (Shaun of the Dead‘s Frost being one of them), it’s the first-timers that truly shine here- especially Boyega, Esmail and the youngster duo of Sammy Williams (Probs) and Michael Ajao (Mayhem), who damn near steal the movie from everyone.
But it’s Boyega’s performance as Moses that is crucial to the success of Attack the Block‘s story, and the newcomer delivers an assured performance that would garner some award nominations if there were any true justice in the awards show world. And as Moses’ right-hand man Pest, Esmail is an absolute delight and shows shades of comedic brilliance displaying the up-and-coming actor’s potential as well.
The inexperience of the cast and the crew of Attack the Block ends up actually working in the film’s favor, much like what happened in 2008’s Cloverfield by Matt Reeves – what could have been a tired retread of every other monster movie that preceded it ends up feeling fresh and inventive experience for viewers. In fact, some of the best moments of Attack the Block for this writer involved the teens just shooting the breeze over the mayhem unfolding around them as it kept me engaged with what these teens were going through.
And for those of you who think that teens sitting around talking may not be enough to keep your interests piqued, don’t worry because the movie also features plenty of crazy-cool action sequences and delightfully gory moments that will definitely keep your pulse racing until the final showdown between the teens and the aliens during the film’s frenzied climax.
As a lover of all things related to practical effects in film, I thought the creature design in Attack the Block was pretty spectacular too, delivering one of the most ingenious designs of the last 25 years. In a world that seems to rely too much on CGI to create monsters today, Cornish’s desire to use practical effects in the flick was not only an admirable decision but it lent a whole new level of authenticity to the film which definitely elevated parts of the story as well as the performances of the entire cast.
For some fans out there, the biggest issue they will end up having with Attack the Block is the language. If you’re not one who fancies themselves up on British lingo, then a lot of the dialogue may come off as nonsensical; however, Attack the Block is absolutely worth pushing through even if you may not be able to follow along with what some of the characters are saying. In fact, Attack the Block played better the second time around for this writer since I was a bit more comfortable with the jargon then and, frankly, was even better the third time since I really felt immersed in the language of this world.
Attack the Block is a truly remarkable debut film that establishes Cornish as a compelling storyteller that isn’t afraid to take calculated risks. The alien invasion flick has something for everyone- great laughs, interesting character arcs, intense action sequences and some down-right chilling and gory moments too and proves that original ideas within the genre realm are still very much alive and kicking.
In terms of the Blu-ray presentation of Attack the Block, Sony definitely makes up for its lack of support during the flick’s theatrical run by delivering a stellar home release of the movie that features a rather extensive and entertaining selection of bonus features. The hour-long Behind the Block documentary is thorough and engaging, really digging deep into what makes Attack the Block such a remarkable feature film and provides a (sometimes brutally) candid look at the grueling process everyone went through to get the movie made the right way.
And while Behind the Block is definitely fascinating and both the Meet the Gang and That’s a Rap featurettes are also highly enjoyable as well, it’s the Creature Feature mini-doc that wis definitely the most entertaining and interesting to watch of the bunch; not only does it take you through the creature design process with both the practical and visual effects teams, but it’s also a showcase for Terry Notary, the lead creature in Attack the Block, who also worked alongside Cornish and the effects teams to develop the look and the feel of the alien. For you practical creature effects geeks out there (like this writer), this featurette is absolute gold.
There’s no doubt that the BlockHeads out there will be pleased by this exceptional presentation of Attack the Block on Blu-ray; it’s everything you could possibly want to know about the flick and then so much more. For those of you who may not have caught the movie when it hit limited theaters earlier this year, Sony’s Blu-ray release is no doubt a fantastic way to experience the movie for the very first time, too.
4 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5