"Attack The Block"
Attack The Block took me by surprise. On the evidence of the trailer, and writer-director Joe Cornish’s much-loved comedy partnership with Adam Buxton, I was expecting a facetious parody about chirpy South London hoodies cheerily taking on hapless aliens with baseball bats. Yes, there are light moments (generally courtesy of Nick Frost), but the tone is largely one of menace, with violent death, whether at the hands of vengeful invaders from space or the local crack-dealer, always on the agenda. Even more impressive are the visuals, the council estate where the action takes place lit to look glamorously grim, and the effects (the aliens being gorilla-gremlin hybrids with fluorescent fangs) rivalling anything a Hollywood production of commensurate scale might have to offer. Cornish has spoken of his admiration for classics like The Warriors and Assault on Precinct 13 which underlay their teen-crowd-pleasing genre story-telling with a political subtext, and his film, which begins with nurse Sam (the reliably excellent Jodie Whitaker) being mugged by a youthful gang led by a boy named Moses (a star-making turn from John Boyega) certainly doesn’t stint when it comes to depicting the limited social and intellectual boundaries which hem the children in. The pacing and plotting are flawless, and even trustafarian stoner Luke Treadaway’s explanation of the localised nature of the alien invasion is plausible; there are also plentiful iconic images (e.g. people of different races, genders and classes coming together to fight a common enemy, Moses using the Union Flag to effect an escape). Some of the line-readings are clumsy, which is understandable, given the inexperience of the younger actors; and the occasional Spike Lee moments (e.g. Moses’ suggestion that the aliens are part of the plot against young black men) are clunkily handled. On the whole, though, this is popcorn cinema at its most accomplished. The hotly anticipated Cowboys & Aliens will have to go some to outdo it.