Saturday, 21 April 2012

Attack the Block (2011)

Joe Cornish's (of Adam and Joe Show fame) is a pretty interesting collision of the hoodrat film and the alien monster movie. The basic premise, for the unaware, is that a group of young hoodies are out being chavs one night when they mug Sam, a young undergraduate nurse. During the mugging, and alien crash lands next to the cast, and the film follows the unlikely team as they battle against the alien invasion. An alien invasion centred directly on their block of flats, no less.

So yeah, the premise is a little ridiculous: hoodies attempt to fight off alien invaders with council-estate standard weapons. Other than that though, the film's pretty grounded with respect to the central cast. You often get films where the cast has elements that are unlikely to work together, but they do so without any issue because of the crisis. Sam is quite understandably apprehensive to stick with the boys considering the circumstances in which they first meet. Of course, for the movie to work it is overcome, but it's nice that even a film that's arguably just harmless fun doesn't make its characters act like unemotional robots. Speaking of the central cast, pretty much everyone in the film is a relative unknown due to the indie style of production. Most of them are still straddling the line between child actors and legitimate actors in their own right, coming just down on the side of the latter. Regardless, great performances are given all around, particularly from John Boyega (as Moses) who lends his role enough subtlety that, towards the end of the film, he is much more than the one-dimensional character he is through the first two acts. Alex Esmail (as Pest) manages a convincing mugger with a heart of gold, too. The much more experienced Jodie Whittaker is the most believable though, as Sam, managing to create a strong and determined character going through a rollercoaster of emotions in a pretty hectic situation.

The film as a whole's really enjoyable. Striking a perfect balance between action and comedy, you get a well crafted piece of cinema with a good sense of pace. Considering that the film is the director's first feature film, the production values are remarkably high. It's apparently shot mostly on location as far as I can tell, and some of the shots are fantastic. There are two great scenes that play out in the corridors of the titular block that are really reminiscent of 80s/90s monster movies too. You can really tell that Cornish has made his name in the industry before this simply by absorbing so much media and analysing and critiquing it.

The aliens themselves are great too. They're relatively simple, but their two defining, and pretty much only, features (the jet black fur and the glowing teeth) create something quite iconic and instantly recognisable. They give off a real primal vibe, similar to the alien from the original Alien: strong, fast and born to tear you apart.

I'd definitely recommend it as a good comedy monster movie. It's an achievement for a budding director to have such a fun film so close to the start of their CV too.

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