looking forward to this feature debut from Joe Cornish, of Adam and Joe fame, and happily it measures up to expectations.
The bones of the story are essentially like the basis for a Battle: Brixton movie, as an alien spore containing a vicious man-eating beast plummets into the midst of a South London council estate, interrupting a mugging. The muggers, five teenagers who live on the block, are attacked by the beast, but are able to overpower and kill it. As the kids celebrate their trophy, they don't realise that more spores are on the way- much bigger spores.
The immediate problem that some will have with Attack the Block is that we're expected to sympathise with chavs. There's more to them than that, but the characters are still chavs. Nevertheless, there's a case to be made that both the film's detractors and Cornish's script are guilty of simplifying the character types. To those who are too easily reminded of Eden Lake, and of course the yobs they've encountered in real life, the parallel is set up very early on through a middle aged woman calling the kids "fucking monsters". And then the real monsters turn up.
That's really the full extent of the potentially problematic stuff in Attack the Block, which is as bold and accomplished a debut as Richard Ayoade's Submarine, with all the ambition and technical aptitude of Duncan Jones' Moon. Cornish blends easily with that new wave of British filmmakers dedicated to ambitious and commercial projects that don't forsake storytelling, or that British sense of humour. His brilliant work re-enacting popular blockbusters using only toys in his bedroom on The Adam and Joe Show has somehow translated into a live-action visual sense that outdoes most of the film's relevant contenders in the very first shot.
However, virtually nobody else out there is making British films as ambitious as Cornish has. And under the Spielbergian touches, such as that sumptuous establishing shot that opens the film, there's the entirely valid current of social commentary. John Boyega, Simon Howard, Leeon Jones, Alex Esmail and Franz Drameh may not play hoodies you can hug, but they're all rounded and distinctive characters, equally capable of being despicable, as in the beginning of their journey, and heroic. It's only a shame that the portrayal of yobs on screen will conflict so wildly with the cinema behaviour of the audience it will attract.
It comes in at a lean, mean 88 minutes, and it's all muscle. Nothing's gratuitous, as we zip from the streets to the 19th floor of the block at the break-neck pace of a modern Doctor Who episode, while keeping the stakes high and the characters in mortal peril. The 15 certificate isn't merely for strong language and drug references- the violence of these gloriously designed creatures is faithfully represented, blood and guts and all. The film gets away with not probing the aliens too deeply on the strength of that eccentric character design and the sheer brilliance of the action choreography.
Attack the Block is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.