We’ve had two highly advertised alien invasion films come out this year, one was the beautiful Super 8, and the other being the ridiculous yet entertaining, Cowboys and Aliens. Whether you liked these movies or not, there is something to be said about the quality of alien films recently. Both of those films worked on different levels but were effective in their own ways. Super 8 was going for nostalgia and tread heavily into homage territory. Cowboys and Aliens was a dumb, problematic film that I still found to be enjoyable. Now enter Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer and director) has created a film that that combines the best elements of both those films. Attack the Block is a borderline masterpiece that is not afraid to be ruthless, different, or stylish.
We have Sam, a pretty brunette who is on her way home after work, when out of the darkness a group of masked teens accost her. They surround on all sides with bikes and knives, asking for her to give up her purse. After she hands just about everything over, something falls out of the sky and crashes into a parked car on the street. Sam uses this distraction as a chance to get away, but don’t worry guys, she’ll pop up again. The boys, led by Moses, approach the damaged car with care. Moses thinks he may be able to grab some valuables out of the glove compartment, but as he reaches in, he is attacked by a hairy, teethy, and violent creature. Moses is able to hurt it, and he, plus the rest of his crew track it down to a shed where they butcher it. Moses takes the body to Ron (Nick Frost) who is the resident pot dealer and geek. Ron doesn’t know what it is either and soon enough, more things come sailing out of the sky, looking for Moses.
The intentions of the nasty extraterrestrials are not revealed to us until the very end, when our heroes piece everything together and come to a revelation that surprised even me. What I mean by stating this, is that Attack the Block works on levels a bit different than what’s out there. It’s not afraid to shock you or make you feel uneasy (while still being awesome). The gang, led by the appropriately named Moses (that biblical name plays out, almost by the book), start out unlovable because they take advantage of a rather beautiful woman. When they take action against the aliens, or as the film progresses, we get to know these teens, and they’re quite lovable. Their actions were not justifiable (stealing from an innocent woman is wrong), but we get to understand why they do it and they’re so damn charismatic, that you can’t help but root for them. With that being said, you become attached to these semi-criminals and you will be shocked as to what happens and how it happens to them. This film is ruthless and no one is safe, no matter how old they are. The film is not wholly about the story, but more the about the characters and who they are.
The soundtrack for Attack the Block is fantastic, reminding me of both Hobo With A Shotgun and Phase 7. That is to say, the background is full of heavy synth beats and tracks. I love that type of sound, a nostalgic look back at the video games I use to play. Don’t know why I associate the two, but I do, and I appreciate it. There are also some Fugees references in the film (two, I believe) and they, once again, remind me of another time in my life.
Gore? Aliens? Outstanding! The violence in the film is well executed due to the impressive practical effects. When people die, you feel them die. The aliens are these dark, shadowed creatures that are almost impossible to see (except for their blue-glowing teeth). Their movement is mostly CGI but when up close, there’s use of animatronics. Boy, do I love me some animatronics! Bottom line, you’ll be impressed with the special effects team and their smart combination of practical and digital.
The story (or theme) is ostensibly about banning together to fight a common evil, no matter what differences you have with your “neighbor”. It’s also about growing up, taking responsibility, and being brave. I’m having a hard time with this review because it’s difficult to get across the notion that a film is “cool”. I don’t mean a dismissive way of rating it by saying, “Yeah man, it was cool”. No, I mean that this movie is James Dean “cool” or it’s retro “cool”. It’s a cool movie, stylish in a way that is not pretentious but at the same time, hip. I loved this movie, I love everything about it, and I am really looking forward to what Joe Cornish does next.