Moses (John Boyega) is a 15 year old self-appointed leader of a group of kids that roam the surrounds of the council estate in which they live. One night, the group bite off more than they can chew when they pick a fight with a “dog/bear/wolf thing” from another world, not realising that it’s a harbinger of sorts, signalling the beginning of a full-on alien invasion.
The kids’ dialogue is the best part of Attack the Block. Every time they open their mouths, something hilarious comes out, all in the most extreme South London slang. You haven’t lived till you’ve heard someone in a sci-fi flick utter the phrase “That’s an alien bruv, believe it.” Their performances are perfect – most of them have had very little onscreen exposure but they handle the material brilliantly. Luke Treadaway and Jodie Whittaker have extensive filmographies however, and they do well in supporting roles. Nick Frost, strangely enough, isn’t very funny here, and I couldn’t decide if this was intentional or not. The fact that the central protagonists get so many of the hilarious lines means that he’s relegated to playing it straight, which is a distinct shift from his usual work.
The aliens themselves are a splash of genius. It’s clear that the filmmakers didn’t have a lot of money to splash around, but in Attack the Block they manage to create a menacing foe all the same. In fact, their alien creations are more impressive (and effective) than just about any dozen monster movies you’d care to mention from the last few years. I won’t describe their appearance here for fear of ruining any surprises, but the effects work by Double Negative is perfectly understated, and because they’ve aimed for such an outlandish concept, questions of realism don’t really come into play.
At 88 minutes, Attack the Block is just about the right length. Any longer and the film would have dragged. It’s a speedy, riotous little film that makes the most of its budget and location restrictions. At times, I would have appreciated a bit more ingenuity to the action and/or violence. Whilst there’s a lot to like, it’s not quite on par with the inventiveness of, say, Dog Soldiers. That being said, it’s definitely better than some of the recent alien invasion movies that we’ve seen from across the other side of the Atlantic, such as Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles or The Thing.
It’s no accident that Nira Park, producer of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, produced this film. Attack the Block is another one to join the distinguished ranks of British films taking Hollywood genres and plopping them in cinematically incongruous locations. It’s also a hell of a good ride.Rating: