For a man who once brought us all the classics via the medium of toys and teddies on the 90s TV classic, The Adam and Joe Show, this big screen debut from Joe Cornish is bloody brilliant.
Cornish has gone where no alien has gone before, a housing block in Brixton. And before you think ‘oh so something like Kidulthood etc’, this is something completely different. It takes the hood genre to a whole new level and captures its essence in a way that hasn’t been done before, but also in a way that doesn’t doesn’t mock and doesn’t miss the mark.
Attack the Block is set in Cornish’s hometown Brixton. Speaking about the film at a screening at Brixton’s famous Ritzy cinema as a part of special screening for Volkswagen’s See Film Differently, Cornish revealed that the inspiration for the film came after getting mugged. The experience left him feeling that both he and the muggers were playing out a part and that everyone involved was probably not that different to each other. He wanted to explore that idea about the almost ritualised situation of them both standing there in the street.
The film opens by zooming in on Oval tube station, not your typical movie location but one that sets the tone perfectly. We then watch as a group of five youths mug, or merk, a nurse (Jodie Whittaker) walking home from work, when an unknown creature drops out of the sky and through the roof of a nearby car. The plucky gang made up of newcomers to the acting world, is headed up by Moses (John Boyega) who decides that no alien is getting near their block, so shanks it (for those who don’t speak rude boy, this is translated as: he kills it).
The action begins from there as alien after alien, looking like massive wolves, takeover the block. It is an alien invasion as you’ve never seen it before. The gang escape to the confines of Ron’s (Nick Frost) drug lair at the top of the block. Here the group meet Brewis (Luke Treadaway) the token posh boy stoner who delivers some of the best lines of the film.
It’s a fast-paced chase from there as they escape and kill, then escape and kill again the demon-like creatures. As the action plays out, the characters become more and more stripped down, each revealing idiosyncrasies that makes them steadily more endearing. They are no longer hooded yobs, but teenage boys who would prefer to play FIFA than anything else and run out of credit at crucial moments. Cornish said that when making the film, he spent hours with teenagers showing them ideas from the film and literally writing down word by word what they said. And it really paid off, it’s unusual to see a film where the diction is so spot on and doesn’t feel too contrived. It helps that the cast are excellent and probably not too far off the characters they play, minus the mugging bit of course. The script is hilarious and really shows of Cornish’s skill as a writer. It’s no wonder that Spielberg has snapped him up as a writer on the up-and-coming Tintin.
Talking of Spielberg, there are some lovely references to his work, especially bits of E.T, although the boys stab up the extraterrestrial, rather than play with him. Other references include some to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 as well. As Boyega said when speaking about the film, it’s a love letter to all those incredible films that have shaped many of our childhoods.
As well as a thuddering soundtrack made with help from Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, Attack the Block also looks good. It’s all shiny and new, not gritty like other films based around housing blocks. It’s celebrating the diversity of the people living in one block, and although it is slightly cheesy watching as the nurse and the gang come to rely on each other, you can’t help but like it. In fact I loved it and I don’t know about you, but I want a sequel!
Buy the Attack The Block [DVD]on Amazon now.