Attack the Block (2011)

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Film review of the alien action adventure set on a  council estate in Stockwell, London and starring Nick Frost and John Boyega.

Director: Joe Cornish

ACTION/ADVENTURE

 

Producer: Nira Park, James Wilson.
Writer: Joe Cornish.
Camera: Thomas Townend.
Music: Steven Price.
Sets: Marcus Rowland.

Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, John Boyega, Leonn Jones, Alex Esmail, Danielle Vitalis, Paige Meade.

SYNOPSIS

A gang of teenage hoodlums take on a group of bloodthirsty aliens whom invade the London council estate they live on, whilst simultaneously avoiding a violent drug dealer who claims to ‘run’ the block.

REVIEWAttack the Block poster

Director Cornish’s (from TV’s The Adam and Joe Show) first feature film is a nang debut, that is shower in several areas.

Check it. Filmed on the Stockwell Gardens and Stockwell Park estates in South West London, just a few streets away from where Cornish grew up, there is a grimy, authentic twang and quick urban wit to the dialogue that dazzles the ears. “I’ve got no credit. Too much madness to explain in one text!” whines one cast member of their greezy situation. Cornish has the gang slang dialogue nailed with pin-point accuracy (as anyone travelling on a London bus could easily agree with), but even though the words are accurately chosen they are delivered with too much clarity.

But this is no moist Ken Loach realism drama aching for verisimilitude amongst the Biffa bins. Subtitles for an English language film might have seemed pure pickiness.

There might be divisions about Cornish having a group of vicious disrespectful thugs and petty drug dealers develop into the heroes of the film (Whittaker is mugged in believable fashion before the first reel is over), his point that saviours can come in the most unlikely of forms is neatly underlined throughout (Boyega, as Moses, is told that his killing of one of the aliens has consequences and he later admits he needs to sort his own mess out). And even though this is primarily a first-class popcorn flick, there is also room for some neatly interwoven themes of territoriality, male power and poverty/social isolation throughout the film (Moses is “looked after” by a frequently absent, or ghost uncle and has consequently formed a tight and loyal group with his bluds) that also explain the gang rising above violence and crime.

Cornish should also be justly proud of his tekkers behind the camera as he can direct some tight, edge of the seat chases, nang shocks and scares and has collaborated well with cameraman Townend to capture some vivid, exclusively night-time shots of the estate that reflect it’s nightmarish, rabbit warren design.

Another plus on the technical side of things and a point usually neglected in reviews of less plush movies, is the spot-on production design and set decoration of the working-class high-rise.

Cornish is well served by a tremendous young cast; Whittaker and Frost are the nominal known actors, but their presence is merely perfunctory as the entire focus is on the gang, led by ticking time bomb Boyega who paces, stares (and stops just short of scraping his feet on the ground), like a bull preparing to charge. Skadoosh!

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