Attack the Block (2011)
A lot was written about Joe Cornish's Attack the Block upon its release back in May 2011. I'll let you know right now that I have no intention of contradicting the popular consensus. This is an innovative, thoughtful, violent and very British Sci-Fi horror film. The contemporary inner London setting, and urban protagonists provide a very interesting take on a tried and tested subject. Do not be misled by certain journalists who try to make political capital out of claiming that the film endorses hoodie culture. It does not. There is no validation or glamorisation of that kind present. It’s simply an alternative setting for a somewhat formulaic story. As ever the devil is in the detail, which is subsequently supplied in the screenplay.
Sam (Jodie Whittaker), an overworked, underpaid nurse is returning home from her shift, while talking to her mum on her phone. She finds herself surrounded by a gang of five teenagers, led by Moses (John Boyega). As they demand her valuables, something falls from the sky and crashes into a nearby car. In the ensuing mayhem, Sam escapes while Moses and his crew find themselves at odds with an unexpected visitor. Everyone takes refuge in the tower block in which they live, as more extraterrestrial visitors continue to fall to earth. A siege begins, and the residents of Wyndham Tower have to band together to deal with the threat. Moses and his gang are motivated by the financial gain that the aliens may offer, but it soon becomes clear that it is them who are primarily being targeted by the visitors.
Cornish clearly shows his love for the genre in virtually every aspect of the production. From the lighting of the tower blocks to the bio-luminescent teeth of the aliens, all clearly demonstrate the influence of eighties cinema that the director grew up on. The script finds a comfortable balance between humour and action with the group of young residents spouting copious amounts of comic, patois-based dialogue. This has become the new benchmark in cult quotable sound bites, among discerning movie nerds. The pace of the narrative is strong and the set pieces hard edged. Attack the Block also maintains that very clinical feel that you often find in the best of British urban dramas.
It is very reassuring to see that films such as this are still being made and are directly competing against the ongoing tide of Hollywood blockbusters. UK film makers can effectively turn their hands to anything but are all too often only associated with period costume dramas or worthy slice of life, social comedies. Attack the Block and the action film Hanna (both released in 2011) have helped contribute to a greater diversification of British film making and have helped alter perceptions. As for Joe Cornish, he has clearly shown his abilities and set a high standard. I look forward to his next project. In the meantime, see Attack the Block, preferably twice. Once to enjoy it, then again to clock all the references. Wyndham Tower indeed.