Attack the Block: an Enthusiastic Recommendation from Steve

I love this movie! Should you see it? Do you love all things British, including strong British accents? Do you love alien/monster/sci fi movies, especially those that make you jump out of your socks once in a while? Did you like Shaun of the Dead? How about District 9? Are you o.k. with a bit of gore, not bucket-loads, but a few quick, bloody scenes? Are you o.k. with “drug content and pervasive language”? Do you like movies that give you an opportunity to experience life in a place you have never been? Finally, are you willing to give characters who at first seem appalling a chance to develop? If you answered yes to those questions, then this movie is for you. If not, then maybe you better stick with this year’s other alien invasion movies, Super 8 and Cowboys and Aliens. But, you’ll be losing out, because this movie is so much better than those.

Since Attack the Block was produced by the creators of Shaun of the Dead, that is a good place to start for comparison purposes. Block isn’t as funny as Shaun, but it was more fun. In part, it is a comedy, but it is so much more. I laughed louder to parts of this than I have to anything else this year. I thought the writing was brilliant, but you will have to listen closely. I’ve read complaints that the accents are so strong that the movie should have subtitles. The accents are strong and they are not simply British. They are black/Jamaican/gang British. I missed a few lines, but I found the language a delight to listen to. That use of language is part of what transports you to another place/culture, in this case the Block, a housing project in South London. The movie begins with a young white women getting mugged by a street gang. The rest of the movie follows this gang as they defend the Block from an alien invasion. Some people complain that they couldn’t get past the fact that these boys were muggers, even going so far as to say that they hoped all the gang members would be killed by the aliens. However, the movie does not glorify the actions of the gang. In fact, one of the key points of the movie is taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is no surprise that the gang and their victim cross paths again. Following a cliche in this genre, they not only cross paths, but must join forces to survive. The brilliance of the writing here is seen in the way this alliance is presented. It is not easy. They don’t want to be together, but they learn about life from each other. I appreciated how the lives of these characters were opened up for us, helping us to understand at least a little bit why they were like they were, but again not in order to justify their actions. There is a wonderful scene where Moses, the leader of the gang, tells Sam, their victim, that they wouldn’t have mugged her if they had known she was from the Block. She doesn’t let him off the hook, pointing out that his apology indicates that he still thinks it would be alright to mug someone who wasn’t from the Block. Scenes like that make this so much more than a simple comedy or parody of the alien/sci fi genre. I actually thought the social commentary here was stronger than in The Help.

I won’t describe the aliens for you. You can discover that for yourself. But I will say that they are not intelligent beings. They are nasty, vicious critters. Although the reason for their arrival on earth remains a mystery (which leads to a funny scene as the characters wonder why aliens would decide to attack a housing project in South London), the movie does a great job of explaining just enough. One of the keys for sci fi and other movies where strange things happen is for the movie to follow its own internal logic. This movie succeeds in that. A tip of the hat to Joe Cornish who wrote and directed this wonderful film. Quite an effort for a first time director! The cast is also quite strong. The only one you might recognize is Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul, Hot Fuzz, Pirate Radio) as a drug dealer, but this movie belongs to the young actors who do a marvelous job of bringing their characters to life. I certainly didn’t expect it, but there is better character development in this movie than in most that I have seen this year. This low budget project shows that you don’t get a great movie just by throwing money around. It takes a clever script, creative directing, heartfelt acting, suspense, and a good sense of humor. Attack the Block has all of that and more. Can you tell that I loved it? Believe!

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