Attack The Block is one of those films that get straight to business. It doesn’t waste time investing in a back story and only captures a particular moment. The whole film takes place in what would be just a couple of hours of one night. In fact, it might even be real-time, as there are really no time lapses. It begins just before an alien ‘invasion’ takes place in a London housing block.
A gang of teens robs a woman (Sam) of her phone, purse and ring. The incident is interrupted by a meteor-like explosion on a nearby car, distracting the boys and giving Sam an opportunity to escape. The alien attacks the group leader, Moses, who shows great bravery hunting it down and killing it. But that is just the beginning.
ATB is funnier and seriouser than you would expect. I respect films that find the perfect balance between drama/action and comedy. Moses provides the serious and is the focused one of the bunch, which at first looks like a braggadocios’ attempt to prove himself to his friends but turns out to be dealing with serious issues. He looks older than, as Sam points out, but you also learn that he needs to be because he has to be his own adult. And through John Boyega, in him, the film creates one of the year’s best heroes.
Even at its seriousest, the film still manages to be funny. This is in a scene when Moses provides his thoughts on the government’s role in the invasion. That is one of the scenes you see the deepness of his character. Here you see the difference between him and the other kids. The difference between his and their theories on the incident show where he is in life and how different he is from them.
The rest of the gang provides the laughs. Pest’s conversation with Sam about the ‘quality of life’ in the neighborhood is madly hilarious, so are the conversations inside the weed guy’s apartment and basically every time the kid’s open their mouths. Maybe the accent helps, but the script by Joe Cornish is really good and in my opinion should get a shot for Original Screenplay. It’s almost hard to believe that this is his first film as a director and only second one as a writer. His other project is Spielberg’s Tintin, which is yet to be released. So it’s fair to say that he’s relatively new to this.
This is most of the cast’s first feature or at least one they feature significantly in. Everything is expertly handled under the care of a fairly new director and in the hands of a relatively new cast. This is a great start for Cornish and the kids. The film has a great soundtrack, which made me start liking a song that I had already heard but never really paid attention to. The score is one of my favorites this year. It was almost scary how perfectly the girls sung The Fugees’ Ready Or Not. The film has one of the best supporting actors this year. From the girls to the characters on the weed guy’s apartment and the wannabe gangster kids.
The character design is unconventional and somewhat refreshing. We’re used to aliens portrayed with a basic human form with bloated heads or with predator-like variations. Here, they are actually beast-like and look like a cross between the polar bears from LOST and something from Underworld. They provide some genuinely scary scenes, which punctuate the funny bits without providing an unrealistic contrast. The aliens are cute, scary and the fangs’ glow is fascinating. Makes you wish someone would make a stuffed animal version of them. Other than the fact this time it’s a gang of inner-city kids fighting the aliens, another thing that sets ATB apart from other films on extra-terrestrials is the fact that they’re depicted as super-intelligent beings with sophisticated weaponry. Also, you don’t need sophisticated gadgetry to kill. It may look like it simplifies the whole film but I felt that it made it seem a bit more realistic.
There’s a scene towards the end that shows Moses running away from a pack of aliens as another one is strapped on his back, a shot that will definitely make it to one of those best scene montages for 2011. This and every other scene with the aliens are shot really well and provide some great cinematography.
This is this year’s District 9. An unexpected hit from unexpected individuals from a place in the world that is not Hollywood. The film seems a little too small for a Best Picture nomination, but then again, so was District 9.