Attack the Block is a movie about neighborhood pride, a sneaky social message of class and tribe, and alien invasions. The film is a mix of Misfits (without the sex and superpowers) meets Aliens and Predator (without the trail of dead scientist and military experts). It's like watching the kids from the fourth season of The Wire defend their drug ridden streets from an aggressive alien invasion. Watch this movie closely because every second of it counts. There aren't any implausible endings, no throwaway scenes, or interactions like the giant plot holes in the similar kids and alien movie Super 8. Seriously how does a mid-sized non-commercial truck derail a high speeding train?
The aliens in Attack the Block have thick black fur with radioactive looking blue teeth. They're fast and vicious, but apparently not terrifying enough for a group of working class boys from 'the block,' short for tower block.
The movie opens with a mugging. The five offenders are Sam, Dennis, Jerome, Purse and their leader, also the hero, Moses. He's played by British-Nigerian actor John Boyega. This is Boyega's first role. He does a fine job playing the brooding and naive leader. In the opening scene they're mugging their unlikely partner a young nurse played by Jody Whittaker. At the height of the mugging they've surrounded her five to one. The opening is seeping with sexual aggression and would have been a very different film were it not for the alien that crash lands into the scene. It's first contact and this alien has messed with the wrong hyper-masculine boys.
And boys they are, so it's hard to see these young wannabes get picked off by often very violent death. But where are the parents? Movies involving teenagers typically like to do away with the parents, banish them to far off places so the children can roam about freeing the plot from parental constraint. Attack the Block is no different, but the film gladly doesn't resort to the typical parents have left for vacation shtick. The film does a wonderful job of outlining each boy's relationship to his home environment, some supervised some very unsupervised, with a sequence where the gang fly back to their apartments, and collect weapons to defend the block. Teenage boys fight aliens with teenage boy stuff: firecrackers, a machete (if you're West Indian you'll likely get this reference) and a samurai sword among things.
You'll know all you need to know about their world during the first quarter of the movie which has the multi racial crew gathered at the weed spot. It's an operation help run by Ron played by Nick Frost. You'll know Frost as the terribly irresponsible zombie survivor from Shaun of the Dead. He is equally as irresponsible here. His comedic performance is accompanied by Luke Treadaway's who plays a middle class white boy who comes to the block for weed and adventure. Ron works for the evil drug dealer Hi-Hatz played by Jumayn Hunter. He's bad for the block and bad for the boys. Hatz is an over-the-top drug dealer/rapper archetype -- angry and territorial, cartoonish too. A more native threat to gang, they respect him, but they fear him.
This movie serves as a breakout opportunity for many in the cast, so the acting with all its newbie energy is superb. It has to be if you're going to make a low-budget film about aliens invading a working class hood in South London. As demonstrated by the mugging, we aren't meant to take a completely sympathetic view of the future of the gang. The writer/director Jon Cornish doesn't seem to want us to perceive these kids as harmless products of their environment. They're actively involved in this street culture narrative, as always it's highly appropriated stuff, and since it's a British movie, the street is 'Jamaican' in origin, e.g., there's a whole lot of suck your mother thrown around.
In the end, despite whatever disconnection these boys feel from the rest of the world their loyalty to each other and the block reign supreme. When the young nurse reveals that boyfriend is working with children in Africa, the very stoned character Purse replies: "Why can't he help the children of Britain? Not exciting is it? Can't get a nice tan."
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