Attack the Block
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86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
I have to say that Attack The Block - written and directed by Joe Cornish - is a pleasant surprise on a number of levels. Given the premise, this could easily have been just another cliched alien invasion movie, but believe me, it is most definitely not. Two things immediately make Attack The Block a cut above any of the myriad films of that overworked genre: 1) As the writer, Cornish actually put a lot of thought into the script that makes this film fresh and imaginative, and (2) as director, Cornish was willing to take chances with his characters not being the usual earnestly cute 'safe' kids from American suburbia.

The basic situation behind Attack The Block is that, for some reason, alien beings are suddenly landing (crashing actually) in one of the seedier parts of London and are converging on one particular 'council block' (what here in the states would generally be referred to as a low-income housing project). The council block in question is home for a street gang of young hoodies who make up most of the main characters in the film, and the situation quickly evolves into a fight for survival as the kids in the gang try to evade or kill the aliens attacking their block who increasingly seem to be coming after them in particular.

When it comes to the aliens, Cornish successfully avoids a number of cliches. These aliens aren't cute and curious, and they aren't invading super-soldiers armed with superior technology. They're not here to make contact, they're not here to study us, and they're not here to take over the world. They aren't even sentient, but they are here for a reason, and I guarantee you'll never have seen this in any other movie that's come before; a quite notable achievement on Cornish's part.

The physical conception of the aliens is also quite fresh. I don't want to give away anything, but Cornish does a great job of going fairly low-tech here, relying on older traditions involving physical costuming, lighting and prosthetics rather than CGI imagineering, and again, putting some actual thought into his aliens, coming up with something that isn't a retread. One detail I can giveaway I suppose: the aliens' teeth _glow_, a bright, gleaming fluorescent maw of myriad icy blue fangs that becomes a really cool effect, especially when you see them coming after you.

And when it comes to the kids, Spielberg this is not. These kids have hard edges: they're a gang of young hoodies who swear and smoke pot; they deal, threaten and steal. The film definitely veers from the safe when it starts right off with the kids mugging a nurse! It says something though that Cornish can set things up so that while it's clear that these aren't your typical clean safe suburbanite youngsters, he gradually fleshes them out into whole complex characters who can by empathized with if not exactly approved of. Little glimpses here and there remind us that for all their hard edges and their street tough bravado and swagger, they are still just kids.

The cast of mostly young unknowns is terrific. John Boyega as Moses, the gang leader, is a natural, giving a layered performance, often with little more than a wordless look, that gradually brings out just how complicated his character really is. Alex Esmail's Pest is quite engaging, alternating between being a mouthy little tough one moment and showing surprising frankness and vulnerability the next. And, after he gets chewed on by one of the creatures, being cheeky enough to hit on Jodie Whittaker's nurse as she's tending to his leg. Another great scene gives the girls in the block their due when the boys retreat to their flat and are taken down several pegs by Danielle Vitalis' feisty Tia and her cohorts who openly wonder what stupid stunt the boys have pulled this time to get into trouble. And who end up showing what they're made of when the creatures attack their place.

I particularly liked the sub-plot around two pre-teen baby-thug wannabees, played to the hilt by Sammy Williams and Michael Ajao, who keep trying to join up with the older boys - insisting on being called Probs and Mayhem - but who keep getting told by Moses and the others to bugger off and go home. At one point the exasperated Probs chides his pint-sized cohort "No one is going to call you Mayhem if you keep acting like such a pussy!"

The dialogue is quite well done, though as you'd expect, the setting means that there's a fair amount of British working-class accent involved, and the London hoodie slang the kids use in abundance in particular takes a bit of getting used to. But it's quite effective in making the characters feel authentic and believable as a bunch of streetwise kids in their bizarre situation.

About the only actor familiar to American audiences would be Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul) as Ron, the block's amiably laid-back pot grower who happens to have the most secure room in the building. The other adult actors are mostly from British TV and not really known here in the US. Jodie Whittaker is excellent as Sam, the nurse who, after having been one of the gang's victims, ends up having to ally with them for survival. As one of the gang urgently tells her, "There's worse things out there to be scared of than us tonight. Trust!" Luke Treadaway is subtly comic as Brewis, one of Ron's regular customers whose bumbling attempts to fit in with the hoodies earns him their derision but who nonetheless stumbles on the reason behind why the aliens are coming after them. And Jumayn Hunter is perfect as Hi-Hatz, the block's big-league gangster the hoodies only aspire to be.

But a lot of what makes Attack The Block work is Cornish's deft hand as director and writer. The pacing is fast-paced and perfect, balancing peril with humor and action with character development so that there's never a point where the film drags or jars. And the balance of ingenuity and folly on the characters' parts makes them all the more believable in the situation that they're in.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good scifi/horror action movie that's more than just a rehash of things that were done to death long ago.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2011
A while ago, I had the idea of setting a zombie story in a council block, because the idea of what a bunch of hoodies would do in the event of a zombattack amused me. Joe Cornish, I'm trifle cross with you, eavesdropping on my thought-waves like that. Not cool, man, not cool.

Anyway, yes, this delivers. Now, listen - this isn't a comedy horror a la Shaun. I say that because for it to be so, I'd expect the lead to be a comic creation. Moses is not. He's a sad but hopeful comment on our times, and he doesn't do or say anything remotely funny. Nor is the female lead a comedy part. It is left to the others around them to carry the comic load. I'd say, then, this is horror-thriller FUN rather than horror comedy. If you accept that, you won't be disappointed.

The dialogue zips along as an entity of its own. It's hoodie-speak. 'Merk' for kill, 'Allow it' for 'leave it', etc. I'm very glad the US viewers were able to get along with this, because I think it's a huge part of the ethos of the film. These guys live in their own world with their own rules and language is not only a reflection of that but a large part of setting the film apart from that's out there. I mean 'Oh, my days!' instead of the ubiquitous, 'Oh, my God!' is just such a fresh relief (familiar to those of us who are around working-class black kids, but refreshing to hear in a horror film)!

So there you are, in a different world, and in the opening scene, these kids mug a nurse at knife-point. The writer and director would really have to bring it to turn this around so we care about the kids, was my thought. Then the aliens arrive in a meteor-like landing camouflaged by its being Bonfire Night. Usually, the kids would be the first victims and the nurse would escape to warn her neighbours and the battle would begin with her. Lovely to have this turned on its head. The hoodies are the perfect army for this battle, being fearless (mostly), territorial, loyal, used to conflict and not given to huge amounts of philosophical musings. Come on, that's not the perfect squaddie?

Everyone loves the line where one of the kids says, 'This is too much madness for one text'. I personally hooted when the girl (Paige Meade) opens the door to the flat and mouths off why she ain't letting them in, yeah, a long litany of reasons, delivered with facety, teeth-kissing bossiness (US viewers, think ghetto finger-waving). Then the other girl comes to the door and says it's her flat and they can come in.

The non-hoodies are a solid bunch of characters, and I salute Cornish for not making the stoners too out of it, because we've seen enough of that 'woah-dude-ness', thank you. I would say that the nurse is a bit too posh, but not fatally so. I loved the posh stoner listening to his out-of-date reggaae ("Skengeh-skengeh!"). The monsters are good enough, giving great death and mayhem, though like many movie-monsters, they are scarier the less you see of them. The ref to Night of the Living Dead, where Moses emerges from the lift, covered in blood, and the police swoop on him - fantastic. John Boyega is especially impressive as Moses, and he and Cornish do indeed manage to turn us around in our opinion of him. I truly hope British producers don't waste Boyega, as they waste so many black actors who then defect to the US.

There are so many little gems in this movie. The big man on the block who refuses to get with the fact that he's been usurped as the baddest threat tonight (it's behiiiiiiind you!); the kid going inside to tell a casual lie to his nan before heading out alien-hunting; the revelation of Moses's 'secret' that nearly had me tearing-up.

The young actors are wonderful; the adult actors sure-footed at their craft (the posh stoner is one of the up-and-coming Treadaway brothers, Jodie Whittaker, getting her horror chops, was a stand-out in the lovely 'Marchlands' and we know about Nick Frost).

This is a horror thriller for our times; our knowing, tough, lean-and-mean times. And it is a treat.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2011
Comedian Joe Cornish's debut film is a fun, inventive and highly original creature feature with a serious social message at its heart. The theme of Alien domination of Earth has been done to death in recent years, typically with massively overblown CGI effects, but Cornish's British low-budget debut takes a very different approach from the Hollywood blockbuster, localising the alien attack to one grimy tower block of a South London council estate.

A gang of South London hoodies mug nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) on bonfire night as she returns home from her shift, but are interrupted when an object crashes into a nearby parked car. Gang-leader Moses is attacked and bitten by a creature hiding within and, enraged, pursues it to a nearby shelter to beat it to death, while Sam takes the opportunity to escape. The gang agree that that the creature must be from outer space ("that's a alien bruv, believe!"), and parade the corpse through the streets like a trophy, returning to the hang-out of resident drug-dealer and horticulturalist Ron (played by a long-haired, shell-suit wearing Nick Frost). However, it is not long before much larger, more aggressive beasts begin to fall from the sky, drawn to the tower block where Moses and his friends reside. Later in the film, Cornish offers up a very sound biological explanation for the invasion, rather than avoiding the issue like most brainless blockbusters.

Sam is left justifiably shaken, shocked and angry at her attack, but eventually comes to rely on her assailants as her protectors as they face up to responsibility; a mutual respect developing between them. One character early on describes the kids as `***king monsters'. Indeed they are, to begin with at any rate. This leftfield (though hardly new) approach seems to have irked some viewers who clearly like their heroes to be whiter then white - as though life was that simple; as though the line between good and evil was so well defined. Cornish's well-made and optimistic point is that nobody is beyond redemption. In Attack the Block there is no glorification of the street violence that has become so relevant in the UK today, nor is there a patronising moral; only the central message that actions have consequences. Cornish is also careful to remind us throughout that despite everything our protagonists are, after all, still only children.

The young unknown cast is excellent; fresh and natural, and particularly the performance of John Boyega, thoroughly believable as villain turned hero, Moses. There are no terrible fake accents either - Cornish uses local kids as his protagonists, using local lingo.

Comparisons with Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead are inevitable, but unwarranted; they're quite different films. The characters in ATB are not comedic ones, and though the film has been made with plenty of wit and humour it is in fact at times a quite serious horror-thriller. Cornish is not scared to despatch some of his young actors to let us know he means business. In some ways it reminds me more of the early films of John Carpenter, which is no mean compliment. The film is full of neat touches and tips its hat to other sci-fi and cult films. The kids themselves live in `Wyndham House', a reference to the author of the classic novel `Day of the Triffids', and watch out for some nods to Spielberg's E.T, among others.

Cornish wrings absolutely everything from his £9 million budget, and is to be applauded for his creativity. Perhaps the climax could have benefitted from the extravagance that a few extra million pounds could bring, but it doesn't matter because part of ATB's charm is its small scale. The creatures themselves are extremely effective; jet black shadows with the majority of emphasis on rows of razor sharp teeth, luminous in the dark, where most of the action takes place. There's very little CGI; the creatures and their movements are actually mostly portrayed by a man in a suit. ATB's pacing is also spot-on, with a series of exhilarating action scenes and chase sequences, and at times it's heart-pounding stuff, aided by a thumping soundtrack by Steven Price and Basement Jaxx.

The blu-ray quality in terms of both picture and audio is superb, and there are some fine extras on the disc too, including a very interesting featurette on the how the aliens were designed, created and filmed.

Though not quite perfect, and undoubtedly not to everybody's taste, this is a thoroughly excellent genre film, bursting with energy and creativity, and for me a solid 9/10. I loved it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Have you ever come across a movie that you've never heard of, starring nobody you've ever seen, with a plot that sounds like it would never work? Well if you haven't before, you have now. The 2011 low budget sci-fi, horror film 'Attack the Block' will surprise you at every turn. You'll start out hating the main characters, a bunch of arrogant teenage thugs terrorizing the streets of a rundown south London neighborhood, but when a bunch of hairy apelike aliens with florescent fangs land in the area you'll find yourself quickly won over by their courage and bravado. When these guys talk about protecting the block they mean it.

While the cast is, as already mentioned a group of newcomers, they do a commendable job making this rather outlandish plot come across as believable and exciting. The lead role of Moses is played by a young Denzel Washington look-a-like named John Boyega who turned out to be impressive in a rather understated way. Boyegas' slow transformation from unlikeable hoodlum to intelligent anti-hero is wonderfully subtle and supplies an excellent counterbalance to the fast paced, helter skelter plot and action sequences. Definitely a surprising little film with an absolutely killer ending. I have a strong feeling this one will become a cult classic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2014
I really enjoyed this movie and I think its just the sheer fun of it that got my attention. The film is violent, funny, dramatic, touching, and a must see simply put. I wondered how they managed to make a film about a British comedy/Alien action adventure work, but then again since its from the producers of Shaun of the Dead (another fantastic British comedy) I guess I should have expected to like this film as well. What makes it even more impressive is that this was Director Joe Cornish's debut film! A feat that deserves respect for what he and everyone else managed to do for this movie.

A friend of mine actually saw this movie before I did and he insisted I check it out since I am a fan of action comedies. I took it home and held off for a while to be honest in checking it out. When I finally did and started watching it I was stunned to see just how much time had passed and before I knew it the film had ended. If you are trying to find something new to see and just wanna laugh at the same time as enjoy a rollicking roller coaster, this is the film for you!

Attack the Block is about a group of young teenagers in London who (surprisingly) are on the front lines of an alien invasion that just happen to center on the apartment complex (the Block) that they live in. Fighting for their lives they must battle up and down almost ever floor, all the while trying to figure out what their enemy is exactly and why they are attacking them.

The characters are all well done, believable, and ones that you can relate to, which really matter in a film. They have their strength and weaknesses each, but they band together to fight the invaders, all of it inspirational. What I really enjoyed about the film is the fast paced style; the action picks up rather quickly and it isn't long before you are caught up in the story. Though it is violent and action packed the film also does offer enough sensitivity to root of the characters and each of their motivations.

Bottom line, this film is excellent. If you enjoy the British comedies; Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, At World's End or other action adventure comedies, please check this one out! You won't regret it, theres a reason it has such a high score on Rotten Tomatoes; people love this film! So go and check it out, I hope you enjoy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2011
A surprisingly enjoyable flick. Obviously it's played for and to a very specific audience - and in many respects, a far cry from the general appeal of its advertised production lineage which includes 'Shaun Of The Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz'.

Clearly geared toward the simmering youth markets of various downtrodden cities and townships; I imagine there might be some additional interest among Anglophiles in general. Although I would guess much less Merchant-Ivory territory. <g>

In many ways this production reminded me of the classic anti-hero flicks 'The Warriors' from 1979 and 'New Jack City' from 1991. Ugly and scary subcultures that the mainstream ignored, but that independent flicks discovered; helping to establish deep cult followings amongst inner city kids of the time. And like those films, 'Block' follows a group of young thugs, criminals, and general misanthropic knuckleheads.

However unappealing the lead characters, there's a sympathetic resonance in their performance. One that, in my opinion, draws heavily from another scifi classic, 'The Blob' with a very young Steve McQueen. And just like that early film, 'Block' is less about the monster or monsters and more about restless youth and their misplaced energies; a sense that given a challenge - young ones can step up, do right, and save the day.

It's an interesting and controversial notion that has its promoters and detractors alike. Suffice to say that, in the context of this flick, I found entertaining.

Kudos to young actor John Boyega, he impressed not only as an action star, but as a budding dramatist. And perhaps it was my eyes only, but I could swear this could be Denzel Washington's kid - amazing resemblance. Looking forward to seeing more from him.

Loved that the director chose to go partly old school with the monsters - getting tired of the plastic unreality of CGI. Sometimes a rubber monster propped by talented puppeteers can be more 'real' and therefore more enjoyable.

Overall, a very decent rental that should slowly build a growing cult/fan base.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 31, 2011
This movie was in and out of a few theaters a month ago and made about $1 million. Now it's already out on DVD/Blu-ray. Produced by the same guys who came up with "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", director Joe Cornish takes this story a bit more seriously without totally abandoning the humor.

Set in inner city south London, the film opens with a gang of teenagers mugging a nurse on her way home for the night. Suddenly a meteor-like object falls from the sky. While the nurse escapes her plight, the boys investigate the object which has hit a car. They discover a hairless creature with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. They manage to kill the monster and move on to their usual night of fun and mayhem.

Unfortunately this creature was just the first of many and they have picked up the scent of their fallen comrade and seek out him/her. The boys have decided to take the body to their friendly drug dealer for storage. Bad idea.

While the film is done on the cheap, it is also rewarding with some genuine moments of suspense. The boys and their nurse victim (Jodie Whittaker) form an alliance to combat the invaders. With the exception of "Shaun" vet Nick Frost in a small role, the central gang casting are all first time film actors about 15 or 16 years old. The film isn't glossy but the now hairy creatures have a very cool blue glow to their teeth. This is a well made and highly effective film and one of the best of the year.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2012
Don't be put offby the thick British accents. This is worth the effort. Talented actors, fine low budget effects. Good looking. Laughs, satire, scares. You'll be pulling for characters you wouldn't think you would like. A winner.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
When the producers who brought you the horror comedy "Shawn of the Dead" are involved, you can expect the unexpected. I had a great time watching this clever, creative mashup of urban gang movie and alien invasion thriller, something no one to my knowledge has tried before. It's an auspicious debut by writer-director Joe Cornish and leading man John Boyega.

"Attack the Block" is full of kinetic action, complex characters, amusing dialog, and interesting twists on two genres. Set among the gritty council flats and lower classes of Britain, the film features a band of thugs as protagonists. They behave viciously at first, mugging a nurse in the opening scene, yet she eventually becomes an ally after aliens attack the tower block they share. The hoods evolve into a group that demonstrates ingenuity, bravery, loyalty, and even a kind of nobility in the face of common threats, human and nonhuman.

The talented young cast, most of them complete novices, is thoroughly believable (the only actor you're likely to recognize is Nick Frost, who plays a comical pot grower). Their thick South London dialect and slang may prompt American audiences to turn on subtitles, but that won't interfere with your enjoyment. The furry, jet-black aliens, while not particularly sophisticated as special effects go, are implacably aggressive and genuinely scary as they leap on their victims and tear at them with glowing blue fangs. And what's an alien invasion without a good dose of grisly horror?

A caution: If you order this item from an Amazon Marketplace reseller, you're likely to be shipped a bare-bones rental disc that contains the film and a few trailers but none of the worthwhile special features. Be sure to enquire before ordering whether the DVD on offer includes the bonus material. If so, the extras will be listed on the back cover of the case.

There are three different commentary tracks from the director, producer, and actors, as well as "Behind the Block," an hour-long making-of documentary, and "Creature Feature," a 20-minute look at creating the aliens. Throw in a variety of shorts like "Meet the Gang," focusing on the young actors, and "Unfilmed Action," showing storyboards for scenes never filmed due to budget and time constraints, and you have a very full disc. All told, these features are considerably longer than the film itself and will substantially augment your viewing experience.

This flick is a great ride, both entertaining and satisfying. Get on board, bruv. Trust!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Pods from outer space fall from the sky all over London and unfortunately some of the first pods to fall land in a tough inner city neighborhood. Monsters with savage attitudes and mouths full of teeth are no match for the tough street hoods who are trying to save their block.

While the kids battle the cops and the monsters they get tough and use their street smarts and knowledge of the area to outwit the invaders. This is a fun Sci-Fi flick filled with a lot of British slang that you will have to listen carefully to. It is pretty gory so be ready for some shockers.

The movie is Sci-Fi with comedy twisted into it and the special effects are pretty good. In the beginning you don't know whether to root for the kids to get arrested or to win the battle, but ultimately you'll pick a side. It's a short movie at 88 minutes but you will find it entertaining if you like Sci-Fi and fun!
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