Britain do quirky, gritty and indie films better than any other country. We were the country that gave the world Shaun of the Dead, Trainspotting and Dead Man’s Shoes. We have the gritty Hunger and Tyrannosaur and now Shame to add to our collection of brilliant British films. The British film industry gets recognised for romantic comedies, Richard Curtis being a huge part of that, and every year we can effectively produce a period drama but we are also good for clever comedy or gritty, real, modern drama.
This leads me to Attack the Block. The perfect example of a new type of British film, taking a well established genre and turning on its head or approaching it from a different angle. We would rely on Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg to deliver this kind of film in the past, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz being two key examples, but this time Joe Cornish offers a fresh approach to the alien invasion genre.
The charm of this film is its characters. The central characters are key to its success, not the aliens. What makes this film even more unique is that Joe Cornish chose London ”hoodies” to be those characters and did so by giving us a realistic interpretation of the kids rather than a spoof or over exaggeration. You can honestly believe that these kids do come from London, that their language is realistic and what is more surprising, your rooting for them!
You shouldn’t be though. The film opens with our “heroes” mugging the female lead character (played by Jodie Whittaker) and generally acting in an intimidating and moronic manner. You don’t want to be on their side but when the aliens start to attack you can’t help but side with the gang and want them all to survive the invasion.
This is in no small part because of the actors that Joe Cornish chose to play his “hoodies.” John Boyenga is brilliant as gang leader Moses and he is supported by a great cast of young actors who all play their parts realistically and sensibly. It is tongue in cheek and a bit silly but the actors never play it that way, they take their parts very seriously and that is one reason why the film works so well.
Edgar Wright is a producer on this and it did remind me of his films with Simon Pegg. Nick Frost even lends support as part of comedy duo. The film shouldn’t be dismissed as part of the comedy-spoof genre that Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz did so brilliantly. This takes itself seriously as an alien invasion film. The horror parts are realistic and gory. The danger is real and the block setting is used effectively to create tension, scares and a great, climactic action sequence.
The aliens themselves are suitably scary and offer some great ”jump out of your seat” moments as well as a brilliant bike/foot chase halfway through the film. There isn’t any silly CGI. The gang of boys aren’t saving the world and vanquishing the aliens for good but just surviving one night and defending their block. This makes the film much better than something like Battle Los Angeles where five people seemingly destroy a whole race of invading aliens.
Overall, the story is great, the script is perfect and quick and the action and set pieces are done brilliantly. The actors play their parts realistically and what is left is a fun, engaging and at times, edge of your seat movie that shows that there aren’t many films that Britain can’t do as well as Hollywood.
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)