Attack the Block (2011)
Directed by Joe Cornish
Set in the South London hood amidst the tower-block projects during Britain’s Bonfire Night, Attack the Block follows a group of teen hoodlums who find themselves defending their turf from an alien invasion. First-time director Joe Cornish, along with producer Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), were raised on Eighties American horror, and Attack the Block is just as much of a love letter as it is a shining example of British humor and the unique lens that these UK talents see the world through.
Moses (John Boyega), Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones) and Biggz (Simon Howard) have just finished mugging an unsuspecting nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) at knife-point when suddenly, amidst the fireworks, something otherworldly falls from the sky into their backyard – a realm they have ruled until that moment. What looks like a cross between a Critter and Cujo attacks the gang’s leader without warning, but he manages to kill it before it tears him limb from limb. Always looking for the next hustle, the boys see the potential monetary value of such a find and proceed to bring it back to their dope dealer Ron (Nick Frost) for safekeeping. Unfortunately for them, a much fiercer version of the beast begins to crash down into the neighboring hills… and this time there isn’t just one of them.
What follows is a fantasy-adventure that hearkens back to Eighties monster movies - but given its setting and cultural differences - Attack the Block transcends the genre it's referencing, becoming a truly fresh and exhilarating marvel rather than just an homage to what came before. The buildings of the South London tenements have a space-age design that Cornish and lenser Tom Townend take full advantage of here, making the neighborhood look like a slightly alien landscape at times. On top of that, the slang and vernacular of the local riffraff in Blighty give the characters more edge, instead of just being a cookie-cut representation of kids in the American suburbs. When you add the frenetic pace that the film’s numerous chase sequences benefit from, Attack the Block fully comes into its own and never looks back.
As one of the clear standouts at SXSW this year, the amount of buzz surrounding Attack the Block should ensure that anyone who wants to see it can. The film deserves to be seen with a crowd and immediately puts Joe Cornish on the map among newcomers like Jim Mickle, Ti West, and Gareth Edwards. What sets Cornish apart, however, is his comedic sensibilities that are sure to keep entertaining us in genre mash-ups for years to come.
5 out of 5
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