Review of 'Attack the Block'

attack_the_block.jpg In a south London housing estate as a gang of young men led by Moses (John Boyega) mug Samantha 'Sam' Berrins (Jodie Whittaker) as she returns from work. They are interrupted when a nearby car is destroyed by something falling from the sky. This turns out to be a small alien that promptly attacks them. The gang manages to kill the alien, convincing their block's drug gangster Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) “week room”, the most secure location they can think of. A short time later a number of other objects fall from the sky which each turn out to contain a much later and fiercer alien. When Moses is caught by the police the aliens attack, killing the policemen and the gang regroups, eventually deciding that they must counter the alien attack.

Though billed as a “science fiction comedy” I have admit this heavy on the former with the “comedy” element practically non-existent. For a small budget picture this is full of action and looks great with tremendous performances put on by two actors who have now gone onto some very big roles: John Boyega, now known for staring in the last three Star Wars films, as Moses and Jodie Whittaker, now known for her role as Doctor Who, as Sam. Not only is there some great action sequences, in particular the final battle in the apartment block, but there is a strong social message as the young gang learns that their actions have a consequence for real people and Sam has a glimpse of the tough life they live. Whittaker here is a tough, street smart, estate living woman who holds her own with both the aliens and the young men yet still willing to learn about these men who have attacked her in such a personal way. Her compelling and driven performance is riveting while Boyega as the gang leader is much more brooding and conflicted, making the difficult decisions needed to see off the alien threat. As for the supporting cast, comedian Nick Frost appears in a cameo as the rather relaxed apartment block drug dealer playing off his typical laid-back beer swilling hapless misfit.

The best action here is in the apartment block itself as the gang attempt to outwit the aliens. In such a confined space the action is extremely personal with the producers not afraid to freely splash visceral gore frequently across the screen. This is not a distant space battle with shiny spaceships and clean, well dressed, heroes but a gritty, tough immediate threat with real people. Nothing illustrates this more than the image of the aliens scuttling up the sides of the apartment building…the odds are stacked against our misfit heroes.

This is Joe Cornish's amazing directorial debut. It is easy to see why “Attack the Block” has been widely praised by the critics with it's mixture of action and social commentary. Often difficult to watch with not only the blood splattered across the screen and the often confusing London accents spouting foul-mouthed epithets left right and center but also for the tragedy of the character's lives as the struggle simply to survive. Though Science Fiction this is also Non-Fiction, unflinching but fair in it's portrayal of an aspect of society that many are unaware of…

A great action film that not only entertains that has a real message that somehow manages not to get in the way but rather greatly enhance the story.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2020-06-13

Directed by: Joe Cornish

Studio: Screen Gems

Year: 2011

Length: 88 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction