When TV and radio comedian Joe Cornish was mugged by a gang of kids on his way home in 2001 little did he realise that the excruciating event would be the impetus behind his first feature film – the amusingly awesome action packed alien creature feature Attack the Block.
Set on Bonfire night, Sam (Jodie Whittaker from St.Trinian’s and Venus) is on her way home to her South London flat when she is robbed by a gang of kids from the same estate.
When something suddenly shoots from the sky, crashing down to earth and destroying a car in the process, the teenagers are distracted, chasing the odd looking creature and kicking the crap out of it when it tries to attack them.
Taking the unknown species back to their mate’s place in the estate, and with dreams of becoming famous for finding life from another planet, the moronic mob are unaware that their vitriolic violence will have some very serious consequences.
The creature they killed may have been the first of its species but it was not the last, or the most aggressive. And as the night lights up with fireworks, all across the area more monsters are landing, drawn inexplicably to hunt the hoodies who killed one of their kind, even if it means bringing down the entire block they live on and everyone in it.
Although known as a parodist of Hollywood movies, particularly with an assortment of stuffed teddy bears on The Adam & Joe Show, Joe Cornish’s screenwriting and directorial debut was inspired, as earlier stated, by his own inner city experiences as well as being an ode to three loves in his life.
Taking elements of Sci-Fi alien films like Tremors, E.T and Gremlins; gang movies like The Warriors, Rumble Fish and Streets of Fire; and finally the area he grew up in (South London), Attack the Block combines all these influences… But delivers much, much more.
The story is skillfully scripted and well directed, moving along at a perfect pace and combining moments of comedy, horror, action and drama together to keep the audience entertained, and at all times accompanied by a banging batch of soundtrack beats provided on the score by Basement Jaxx.
Keeping the monsters unseen until late makes for much more tension and impact and the design and effects are excellent. With their spiky black mass punctuated by the luminous blue jaws, the aliens are an iconic piece of creature creation.
Feeling like a genuinely British film, realistic in its setting and surroundings if not in its story, Attack the Block is also a true tale of our times, cleverly and subtly. It deals with issues on the minds of everyone in the audience and the entire country in regards to urban community, youth culture and inner city crime while never patronising or breaking the mood of the film.
Like a love postcard to his postcode this is a movie set in a very real London, and Cornish uses every part of the grimy night streets and neon lit housing estate as a sprawling playground-come-warzone where the crafty kids who ‘call it home’ have the upper hand against their evil aggressors.
The originality of the film is in casting a gang of outcasts, who start out as clichéd menaces to society as the unlikely saviors of the planet from alien invasion. Although created by Cornish the credit to the realistic characters in the gang and their equally realistic dialogue goes to the unknown actors who play the roles with aplomb, gaining the audiences sympathy and empathy as they develop and are endangered by the glow in the dark mouthed monsters.
John Boyega is especially excellent as Moses, the antihero who parts the dead sea of space creatures to guide his rag tag teenage troops home. Jodie Whittaker plays a heroine who the audience will easily identify with and Nick Frost and Luke Treadaway also deserve a mention for providing ample doses of drug fueled comedy relief.
Like Kidulthood meets Critters, Attack the Block is a must see movie and a phenomenal feat for Cornish as his first feature film. With a great cast, spot on script and a brilliant balance of real horror and humor this original urban epic packed full of home grow talent is exactly what the U.K, film industry should be all about.