With Attack The Block, screenwriter turned director Joe Cornish has crash-landed onto the one-to-watch list hard. Which is kind of ironic, as his directorial debut does some crash landing of its own – ET style. Cornetto-obsessed director Edgar Wright has heaped a ton of praise on Cornish, and rightly so. Attack The Block is a movie that feels too big for its small time suburban skin and yet proves to be one of the most stylish and well-executed British films of recent years.
He also does a good job of messing with our perception of what makes a movie hero. We’re lead into the action by a group of BMX riding youths whose South London vernacular feels more alien that the guttural growls spewing from the otherworldly enemies they soon encounter. It’s clear from the get-go that we’re not meant to sympathise with these guys – within the first 20 minutes they’ve mugged the mousy Sam (played by Jodie Whitaker) and both discovered and killed a jagged-toothed alien that dared attack their stony-faced leader, Moses.
However it’s this mindless violence that sets our thuggish protags on the road to becoming unlikely heroes. Little does Moses know that this recently snuffed monster has some bigger, badder brothers who definitely won’t be dismissed so easily. As their tenement block comes under attack, Moses and his crew are forced to fight alongside its varying inhabitants to ward of a throng of blue-toothed alien beasts.
Beneath the hoodie, Attack The Block is a multi-faceted look at society and preconceptions spliced with some gratuitous alien action. Cornish handles each world with expertise. For our teen anti-heroes he provides a dub-step backing track that follows them like a pulse, as viewers we’re completely immersed in their world and it’s all too familiar. Yet when danger rears its fuzzy, fanged head we’re treated to action and suspense on par with Hollywood’s finest.
Ron (Nick Frost) the block’s local dealer and Brewis (Luke Treadway) the floppy haired student stoner provide ample laughs, while Jodie Whitaker shines as the anti-damsel in distress. Don’t be surprised to see more of Moses and his crew in the future either, they’ve got break-out talent written all over them. It even manages to sneak in a subtle ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ social message to ponder once the credits roll, by which time you’ll be willing to follow Cornish out of the block and wherever he decides to go next.
Words by Simon Bland.