Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Attack the Block

Comedian Joe Cornish's directorial debut is an alien invasion movie but not those typical patriotic alien movies that Hollywood tends to produce in which the aliens attack major landmarks in the world- I mean America. This time however they are attacking a council estate in South London, which is in England (for the geographically ignorant).

Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is a trainee nurse walking home from a shift in bomb fire night, while she is walking home a gang of five demands her wallet and phone. However while this mugging is taking place a meteorite destroys a nearby car allowing Sam to escape. The muggers investigate the wreckage and the leader Moses (John Boyega) is attacked by a creature. The gang chases the thing, brutally beat it to death and parade it around the block. However things go from bad to worse as more of these things arrive.

Almost immediately Joe Cornish has created a mountain for himself to climb as the mugging that takes place right at the very start of the film is undertaken by the gang that the viewer is supposed to engage with as they are the ones who defend their block from the aliens. Does Cornish ever reach the summit to solve the problem by giving the characters something that could overcome their antics at the start of the film? No. He does not. Their actions at the very start of the film still plays strong in the viewer's minds so we never entirely engage with the characters, though I wouldn't go as far as saying I was cheering on the aliens. The lack of likeable characters causes a chain reaction of issues such as a lack of tension and a film that is neither as scary nor funny as it should be. There is an attempt to give character as Moses has some regrets, he also apologises for the mugging (which turns out to be a pathetic apology) but Cornish never shows how a child's life is led to violent crime thus the viewer can not feel sympathetic for the character's situation.

Attack the Block is not nearly as scary as it should be; the alien invader is nothing more than a giant fur ball with teeth that glow in the dark, it hardly looks like a creature that could invade the world and if one of them was kicked to death by a bunch of kids they hardly pose a worldwide threat. There is a lack of tension and any proper jump scares that are truly effective. Attack the Block is also not as funny as it should be, Attack the Block has been placed among the likes of Neill Blomkamp's District 9 and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs for best debuts but we have to avoid getting ahead of ourselves here, Attack the Block is not even in the same league as two previously mentioned. A similarity between Reservoir Dogs and Attack the Block is the various popular culture references. Attack the Block makes references to video games such as FIFA (and it's a good one, to be fair). The often funny Nick Frost delivers the most laughs with a few good jokes, one of them including calling the teenagers 'quite sweet really, aren't they?' Overall, however, most of the jokes remain rather ineffective.

There is fun to be had during Attack the Block but despite Attack the Block's rather short running time of approximately 100 minutes it still feels rather slow despite the relentless pace. This is down to the lack of any likeable characters, proper frights and laughs. This all works against the young cast's superb performances (particularly debutant John Boyega), all of whose performances are slightly limited by Cornish who does not successfully counter the issue raised at the very start of the film. Edgar Wright is on production duties for Attack the Block many will know that he is the director of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and most recently Scott Pilgrim. In the same way Shaun of the Dead is a horror-comedy (more comedy than horror) Attack the Block is a Science Fiction comedy (both elements not brilliantly done). Shaun of the Dead is by far the more the more interesting, entertaining and funnier film as the characters, slackers they can be, are much more likable as they do not go round mugging nurses. It's a shame that one single incident at the very start of the film completely ruins the great performances and the tension and enjoyment that could have been effective creating a good film, instead of this however we get disappointment.

Attack the Block has potential but it falls flat on its face due to the lack of any effective development in the characters that will help overcome their actions in the first ten minutes of the film. There is some development but I still get the idea that the teenagers do not care for anyone that they do not know. Attack the Block has its moments but it's not quite as entertaining, scary or funny as it should be. A disappointment.


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