Attack the Block (2011)
★★★ / ★★★★
When Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is on her way home from work, a group of teenage miscreants, led by Moses (John Boyega), stops her and demands for her phone, purse, and jewelry. As she fearfully hands over her belongings, something from the sky crashes onto a car just a few feet away. At first, they think that what has fallen is a firework considering it is Guy Fawkes Night. Moses looks inside the car.
There is nothing but a big hole on the roof and smoke coming from the vehicle. From a few feet away, though, Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), and Biggz (Simon Howard) notice a creature hiding in the dark.
Written and directed by Joe Cornish, “Attack the Block,” energetic and entertaining, finds a way for us to care for the young thugs during the backdrop of a possible alien invasion. Each member of the group is given a chance to shine.
Interestingly, Moses, while the most daring, is not the most likable. He hides behind the veneer of toughness as a substitute for the frustration and anger of a barely existing home life. Later, when the muggers and the mugged team up for the sake of survival, Sam is granted a chance to enter Moses’ home. The scene stands out because it provides a possible reason why Moses is always in the streets and committing felonies.
Their neighborhood, or block, is not exactly affluent, but there is no shortage of kind people. The writer-director provides several instances which suggest that being poor does not necessarily equate to one having a propensity to do bad things. When Sam, traumatized by an attack, is seen by an older lady as she walks toward the elevators, Sam is invited to come in, have some tea, and talk about what had happened. I don’t think I have it in me to invite a complete stranger in my home.
The aliens are interesting. There are two types: the first is barely a size of a chair, non-hairy, and almost translucent, while the other is covered with thick black hair, its ravenous teeth glow-in-the-dark, and exhibits gorilla-like bearing. We mostly see the latter and it is creepy that they like to hide behind cars and shadows. Their agility is a threat. Chase sequences almost always involve the teenagers only about two to three feet away from their predators. Combined with its smart use of slow motion, there are times when I felt suspended in the air out of extreme anticipation.
Further, I admired the film’s bravado to actually allow some of the characters to meet their demise–often in a gruesome, bloody ways. It adds to the unpredictability and chaos of what is unfolding before our eyes.
What I was not as impressed with, however, is the way it portrays cops. They are as useless as wet gunpowder. I had a difficult time believing that despite more than a dozen gorilla-like aliens on the loose, not a policeman encounters one.
Moreover, Ron (Nick Frost) and Brewis (Luke Treadaway), devoted fans of cannabis, are greatly underused. They spend most of their time in one room and only conjuring about three barely amusing jokes. What is the harm of making them join the fight?
Although “Attack the Block” has the potential to be much edgier and grittier, it pulsates enough creativity to warrant approbation. Using ice skating shoes to kill an alien was something I had never seen before.