Film Review: “Welcome to London, Mother F*#ker”

review

Attack the Block, written and directed by Joe Cornish. Copyright 2011. Seen August 25, 2011. 

I saw the trailer for Attack the Block about two weeks ago, via one of my many sci fi news websites (most likely Den of Geek or io9), and was super excited to see it. Billed as from the producers of Shaun of the Dead, but obviously not a comedy but a gritty take on “inner city versus outer space”, it’s about a group of teen thugs in south London who just happen to be in the right (or is it wrong?) place during an alien invasion. And the only ‘name’ (at least for us here in America) in it is Nick Frost, making this truly independent.

I got to see a free screening last night as part of CinemaKC’s participation in the 3rd annual Kansas City Urban Film Festival, and the movie definitely lived up to my expectations. It had a lot in common, in a way, with another British import that I fell in love with, The Full Monty (bear with me here). Filled with relative unknowns (again, at least for America), it was truly British – not ‘Americanizing’ any of the dialogue or plot. It also dealt with ‘lower class’ people in all their glory (including the heavy accent), as opposed to Jane Austin-style ‘classic’ British, which means if you’re not at least familiar with the way they really talk across the pond, it’s almost a foreign film. The plot even is partially due to the fact that these are people hard up for money at a bad point in their life (although for Attack the Block, there’s the sense that it will never get better). And the main character is a bit of an ass at first.

In fact, that was my favorite part of Attack the Block: when we first run across the kids who become the focus of the film, they’re mugging a young lady who ends up helping them later (and does not hesitate to refuse the call at first due to this inciting incident). These kids are not Jeff Goldblum or Wil Smith in Independence Day, they are not Sigorney Weaver in Alien (or even Avatar), and they are definitely not any of the characters in Doctor Who (well, maybe Ace – and if you get that reference, you definitely need to catch this movie!). These are not ‘good guys’ in any sense of the word, and when they initially go after the first alien they see falling from the sky, it’s all with the intent to kill it – and hopefully make a profit on the dead body, maybe on eBay.

While I’m not a huge horror movie fan, I do like many of them – and consider myself a late bloomer, only starting to get into them right around when I graduated from college. This was the good type of horror movie, using tactics from Hitchcock as well as Wes Craven, starting with the characters first and showing very little to great effect. In fact, the aliens who are attacking are some of the best special effects I’ve seen in a long time, using black light on the teeth and a combination of puppetry and CGI for the ‘blacker than black’ coats in such a way to make these creatures truly alien yet still somewhat recognizable.

There wasn’t a single choice by any of the characters that made me want to yell at the screen in frustration, and the script is tight, using humor in all the right places and making the attack feasible, not to mention the reasons why the aliens keep coming after our POVs. My only problem is that it was hard to remember names and who was who, but that may have also been intentional, leading you to group everyone as one entity.

John Boyega as Moses, our main thug, is positively brilliant – playing the 15 year old kid at the center of the story and the head of the small gang. (I had to agree with the character of Sam, the lady who was mugged in the opening scene, that he looks much older than 15. I have to wonder at the real age of the actor – which isn’t on IMDB.) He plays the ‘held-in fear that you can’t show as it shows weakness’ extremely well, and definitely has the charisma that lets you fully believe he can control the kids under him, as well as earn the acknowledgement of the local drug dealer who decides to ‘make’ him. He carries this film, and does a good job of it.

In fact, all the actors did a fine job, especially the two little kids who are determined to show Moses they are up to the challenge of an alien invasion, and end up saving one of the gang in the process.

Attack the Block opens nationwide on September 2, hopefully at a theatre near you, and if you are a fan of horror films or gritty British films, I would highly recommend it. 4 stars out of 5, and more information can be found at attacktheblock.com.