Attack The Block

Pest, Dennis, Moses, Biggz, Jerome


The very first Brit-sci-fi-horror-action-comedy, the only movie for adolescent Souf’ Londoners and why it’s probably the best British film you’ll see this year.

Attack The Block is a producers dream: you can condense the bulk of the plot into just 10 words. A South London teenage gang face a vicious alien invasion. To expand, the film opens with the mugging of hospital nurse Sam (Jodie Whitaker) by a group of youths. Suddenly, something falls from the sky causing a small explosion nearby. It’s an alien. When gang leader Moses (John Boyega) is scratched by this being, how does the group react? They beat it to death, drag it home and boast their achievement to their peers. However, as they soon realise that this is just the beginning of something much bigger, it is up to them to defend the block from a brutal extraterrestrial assault.

The aliens in ATB are unstoppable, amoral, violent antagonists giving us no choice but to take sides against them. More than this, they have a fuzzy Superblack* fur juxtaposed with rows of bright blue teeth that glow in the dark. That’s right, glow in the dark (where’s my merchandise?). A score provided by Basement Jaxx with synthesizers and drum and bass beats (reminiscent of The Social Network) commands the plot, and the characters, forward.

Some cuts are perhaps too obviously shown in order to keep the film on budget, nonetheless the chase scenes work brilliantly in holding a generally tight g

Brewis/resident posh boy of da block

rip on the audience, if a little sluggish at times. Kudos goes to cinematographer Thomas Townsend (his first feature) for giving the film, from the very first scene, a stunning visual style – the use of lighting being especially dazzling and it’s undeniable that the film’s climactic finale is simply breathtaking on every account. The fireworks, the mobile phone screen and the fluorescent teeth all offer a fresh subversion of the anxiety darkness provokes in all good horror films, and even copied ideas feel as fresh and inventive as when they were first discovered by the maestros of horror.

There are no familiar faces here, if anything, we have an experience similar to the aliens: our first meeting with the gang is intimidating, dangerous, hostile – but, like Jodie Whitaker’s character who is initially threatened by the gang, we learn to seek safety from the strength of their unity. This goes to show that ATB isn’t just a battle between good and evil, it also questions the very nature of good and evil; the opening mugging persists in our minds throughout the film and confronts us with a moral dilemma as to whether the kids are all right or all fight. ATB holds not only social significance, but also a unique cultural stand out in cinema. It’s inspiring to see a high concept genre movie that isn’t an adaptation, a remake, a sequel, a threequel etc, rather an original concept admirably nostalgic to a forgotten generation of alien sci-fi culture. However, if you’re expecting to see a zany, irreverent satire on the whole ridiculousness of the situation, look elsewhere. ATB stays faithful to its main concept, with each scene fastening the ambitiously fast paced action together – no idle chit chat, no nonsense.

Joe Cornish, of the Adam and Joe Show fame (anybody?), sets a towering benchmark for a debut film, offering extraordinary set pieces and striking cinematography equivalent to an experienced filmmaker and often more impressive than anything anyone else could offer.

One more thing…

If ATB is a success, which is looking ever more likely with an astounding reception at American film festival SxSW, this will only help the high concept movie as a piece of original, entertaining moving pictures with artistic merit. It is my belief that the 30 something British filmmakers are now at the forefront of saving the film industry from an inevitable descent into monotonous inadequacy. Now what are you waiting for, go see Attack The Block!


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4 Responses to Attack The Block

  1. Maz Shar says:

    This is a fantastic review as usual Thomas, i’m an avid reader of yours and always check to see if you have the review for a film i’m going to see. The depth and detail in this is great and the fact that it really flows helps me out; I tend to get bored with most reviews. You really seem to have a vast knowledge of film, very professional i’m assuming you have a degree in Film. Only problem is you do not do enough reviews :(. I recently saw this film and I would have to agree that, some cuts are perhaps too obviously. I also find it rather peculiar how the opening scene of a British film such as this did not have a big red bus! haha 🙂

    Keep it up!

    • Tom says:

      Thank you Maz Shar! Yeah, far too many British films focus on using the conventional iconography associated with London or Britain in order for the Americans to comprehend the setting change! We see it in American films, but why should British films feel the need to do it? It should be the story itself that is engrossing the viewer, and if it is then they’ll know where it’s set and what’s going on.

  2. Clive Wolsey says:

    Really interesting that you make the argument for ATB being a ‘high concept film’ – I think that’s a definition which film enthusiasts and many film critics (they don’t always seem to be the same people) would disagree on…

    Even without having seen the film, it seems inevitable that it won’t end up on the list of Oscar nominees, or even the ‘Best Of 2011’ lists composed by many critics – but if a film can reach out and relate to the cinema-going masses, you call ATB ‘the only movie for adolescent Souf’ Londoners’ – then surely it needs to be equally lauded.

    Refreshing writing – I’ll certainly be back!

    • Tom says:

      Well, I’m talking about high concept in the traditional sense of the word – can the producers sell the film in one sentence beginning with ‘what if…’? Yes, what if aliens invaded South London?
      Considering 8/10 of the highest grossing films of the 00’s were sequels (the other 2 being Avatar and Passion of the Christ), compared to 0/15 in the 1970s, and all of those films are supposed to be ‘high concept’, then Attack The Block truly brings the meaning of that phrase back to it’s roots…

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