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
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!