Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DVD Review: Attack the Block

Attack the Block ***
Directed by: Joe Cornish.
Written by: Joe Cornish.
Starring: Nick Frost (Ron), Jodie Whittaker (Sam), John Boyega (Moses), Luke Treadaway (Brewis), Alex Esmail (Pest), Paige Meade (Dimples), Leeon Jones (Jerome), Franz Drameh (Dennis), Jumayn Hunter (Hi-Hatz), Danielle Vitalis (Tia), Simon Howard (Biggz), Sammy Williams (Probs), Maggie McCarthy (Margaret), Michael Ajao (Mayhem), Selom Awadzi (Tonks).

If JJ Abrahms Super 8 was a throwback to the Steven Spielberg films like Close Encounters of the Third King and ET, then Attack the Block may well be a throwback to the Steven Spielberg of Jaws, which was less sentimental and slightly more hard edged. The Spielberg who would kill a beautiful young woman and teenage boy to keep the audience on its toes. Attack the Block is an alien invasion movie where the only line of defense is a group of inner city kids in London who live in the “Block”, an aging apartment complex, basically populated by poor minorities. Written and directed with style and skill by Joe Cornish, I assume Spielberg saw something of himself in this movie. After all, Cornish is one of the co-writers of Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin movie, itself said to be a throwback to more innocent times for Spielberg.

The movie opens quickly, wasting little time before getting right into the action. Sam (Jodie Whitaker) is a nurse who has just moved into the block. She’s on her way home from work, when she is attacked by the teenage residents of the block, led by Moses (John Boyega). They are still in the process of taking her wallet and her jewelry, when something crashes into a car right next to them. They chase it down, and it’s some strange creature that they beat to death with a baseball bat, and then parade it through the streets. It isn’t long before its joined by more strange creatures from outer space – these new ones not quite as easy to kill.

Attack the Block moves at pretty much breakneck speed from beginning to end. The film wastes no time in getting started, and from there movies quickly from one well executed action sequences to another. A bike chase is a stylish highlight, as is a creepy scene in a smoke filled hallway. As the movie moves along, you quickly realize that Cornish will do just about anything to surprise and shock the audience. There is a real sense of danger, and a feeling that even though these are kids, not everyone is going to make it out alive.

Attack the Block is clever and funny as times as well. Nick Frost, from Dawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul, adds a nice, comedic performance as a drug dealer stoned out of his mind for most of the movie.  Because the movie moves so quickly, character development is shunted off to the background, but there are a few surprisingly effective scenes, that so how disenfranchised these kids already are with the system – and yet how they subject others to the same sort of prejudices. They apologize to Sam, saying that if they knew she was from the block, they wouldn’t have robbed her – as if that makes it okay. They judged her, because she is white and pretty and doesn’t look poor, much like everyone judges them, because they are black and from the block. The movie doesn’t push this social agenda down your throat, but it offers a nice little insight to go along with all the action.

Attack the Block is destined to become a cult hit – something it has already gathered to a certain extent. Dumped into a few North American theaters this summer, the film did pretty well for itself. Now that it’s on DVD, it should find a receptive audience. It is not quite as good as Super 8 – but then again it was made for a tiny fraction of that films budget. This should be the start of a promising career for Cornish.

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