Ever since Attack the Block was released in 2011, I’d always wanted to watch it. Although I don’t live anywhere near London, I am familiar with the culture and terminology of council estate-raised teens, and to be honest, if you didn’t know your ‘sick’ from your ‘hood’, you’d probably have a hard time understanding the film.
Attack the Block follows Moses, played by Star Wars newbie John Boyega, and his friends as an alien invasion ravages their council estate. It is left up to these teen tearaways to protect their block and win the respect of their peers and the police. Personally, I thought the story was pretty weak and all hinged on minor inconveniences, but this film was definitely not made to tell a deep, emotional story. The plot is nothing special, but is is serviceable and does the job; you’ll just need to suspend your rationality at some points.
One of the outstanding features of Attack the Block is the superb direction from Joe Cornish, and the excellent cinematography from d.o.p Thomas Townend. You can tell the film has a very modest budget, but from clever editing and unique shots, it doesn’t spoil the moment, and if anything, the quick, stolen glimpses of the aliens adds to the tension without giving too much away.
I was also quite a big fan of the acting, especially John Boyega as Moses. Moses is a character of very few words, but Boyega manages to stand out due to his brooding and sinister performance, which gives me a lot of confidence for his role in December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Also good was Nick Frost, who plays Ron, the housebound drug dealer of the boys. Although he is not featured too often, his expert comedic timing helped to garner some of Attack the Block‘s biggest laughs.
Talking about the film’s humour, it’s very hit-or-miss. The script itself is not very good since it relies heavily on British slang and tropes to get the most laughs. Some of these, for example “I feel like going home, locking myself in, and playing FIFA”, are genuinely funny the first time, but the film’s over-reliance on slang and terminology gets old fast.
However, I was definitely a fan of the film’s frequent action scenes. They were tense and well-shot, and alongside the very contemporary soundtrack, made for a gripping time whilst the boys were fighting the aliens that invaded their estate. Parallel to these tense and gory action scenes were the scenes involving the two 9 year-olds Probs and Mayhem, which provided excellent comic relief during the film’s tensest action scenes.
The final third is very gripping, but this is ruined by the film’s ending. Some of the best directors of modern times, for example Christopher Nolan, use an ambiguous ending to get the viewer thinking, but this is not the case with Attack the Block, and if anything its ending detracts from the experience. Another issue was the profound change of tone towards the film’s third act, which seemed only to occur because Joe Cornish had run out of slang to use.
I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed by Attack the Block, mainly due to the poor script and weak story, but it’s not bad by any means, and if you’re British I recommend you give it a watch, but don’t get set your expectations too high.
I give Attack the Block 7 out of 10.
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As someone who’s been exposed to Brit entertainment in general and Joe Cornish’s work in particular (look up some of his stuff as “Adam and Joe” with Adam Buxton!) for years, I really enjoyed Attack the Block.
The script wasn’t airtight, but I saw it as a tribute to social-satire movies of the 80s in the vein of Escape from New York, where the real point is the world that we find the characters in.
Yeah, I’ve got to say that the social commentary on British culture was pretty good, but there were too few moments where it became clear that it was satire and not just down to the script.