Alien invasion or coming of age film? Regardless, the British film, Attack the Block, stands heads above many of the Hollywood releases in the last few years. Director/writer Joe Cornish takes us on an action-filled romp through a South London Social Housing neighbourhood. Seedy, violent yet in the end redemptive as a gang of young black hoodlums defend their homes from alien invasion. Sounds silly? Maybe, but this film works.
On Guy Fawkes night (think July 1st and fireworks), we are introduced to Moses (John Boyega) and the rest of his gang complete with hoodies and bandannas as they ruthlessly mug Sam (Jodie Whittaker) a nurse not looking for trouble, but having found it regardless. Just as things are about to escalate into a full-blown assault, a mysterious object from the sky crashes to the earth narrowing missing Sam and the rest of the gang. In the ensuing confusion Sam escapes leaving behind the boys to investigate the crash and the mysterious life form buried in the wreckage. After Moses is viciously attacked by the creature, he and the rest of the gang chase it down, corner it, and are eventually able to kill it. Spirits are high as the boys realize they have just single-highhandedly saved the planet from alien invasion. Or have they? Their jubilation and “props” are short-lived as the night sky once filled with fireworks, is now alive with long streaks of light which plummet to the earth. More aliens. The invasion has begun.
What could easily have been another mindless alien versus the world film, (Prometheus) actually comes across more as a multilayered, intelligent examination of cultures, leadership and survival. Human survival. Thanks to a rich and relentless script, and excellent acting from the mostly young and upcoming actors, there is a purposeful and distinct shift from boys to men in this urban nail biter. As the story continues we find out more about their lives not by “Quentin Tarantino flashback”, but rather by how they instinctively act and react to this mortal threat. It is not until the film’s climax that we find out that much more about Moses, and what make him tick. His history is not an excuse to hurt people, but rather a reason. This Guy Fawkes night there is heroism from the most unlikely of people. Attack the Block is well worth the time and emotional energy. I am hoping for a director’s cut, because these 88 minutes, as rich as they are, simply are not enough.