Published Jul 28, 2011It takes strength and determination to take the things in your life that hurt you and turn them into something good, and Joe Cornish (one half of legendary UK comedy duo Adam and Joe) has turned the trauma of being mugged by a gang of youths in London into a solid debut as a writer and director with Attack the Block.
The film places a gang of teenage delinquents ― first seen mugging a woman ― into the roles of unlikely protagonists (never quite heroes) facing off against an alien invasion, and it's heavy with '80s influences and contemporary imagination.
Produced by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Hot Fuzz) and starring a gang of, well, kids, you might expect Attack the Block to draw from '80s fare such as The Monster Squad or The Goonies, but with a grimy soundtrack, often stylized visuals and a surprising willingness to graphically kill pretty much anyone, Cornish's influences split the difference between The Warriors and The Thing. The gang are kept weak, scared and on the run, and while there are frequent moments of levity (many laughs relate to the gang's London street slang-heavy interactions with each other), they almost seem superfluous, especially as the stakes get increasingly higher.
Cinematographer Thomas Townend deserves plaudits for his work (especially in the bravura climax) and the aliens ― though likely to ring bells for anyone who's played Eric Chahi's Out of this World ― are fantastically realized. If there's ultimately a flaw with the film, it's the pretty much tacked on "happy ending" that somewhat diminishes the themes of understanding others and that, in the end, we all have to pay the piper.
However, Attack the Block remains one of the most vital British films released since Peter Mullan's Neds, taking genuinely believable characters and placing them in a fantastical situation that's treated with refreshing honesty. It can be true that sometimes the muggers are just as scared as you. (Sony)