|Attack the Block (2011) Directed by Joe Cornish|
You could call the new British alien invasion movie “Attack the Block” trashy, and you'd be right.
You could also call it funny, scary, exciting and even socially relevant (though not so much so as to slow things down). Mostly you can call it a hoot, a tongue-in-cheek effort that hits the ground with all four limbs moving like the Coyote in a “Road Runner” cartoon and doesn’t let up until nearly 90 minutes later.
Joe Cornish's low-budget alien invasion flick is set in a London public housing high rise (they’re called “estates,” which is a pretty classy word for a pretty grungy environment), and its heroes are a gang of disaffected teens who turn from mugging strangers to confronting an infestation of voracious alien creatures who have dropped from the sky. Initially we see the gang through the eyes of one of their victims, Samantha (Jodie Whittaker), a student nurse whom they attack when she’s walking home one night. As luck would have it, once things get really hairy Sam must throw in her lot with these young miscreants to battle a common foe.
The leader of the gang is Moses, a 15-year-old who looks 20. Moses is played by newcomer John Boyega, who gives us a fully rounded character with very little dialogue. Moses is the strong, silent man of action.
On the other hand, his compadre Pest (Alex Esmail) is anything but. Pest is a motormouthed little speed freak with a funny exclamation for any situation. In a setup like this, his main purpose is to defuse tension with the well-placed comment.
Along the way the gang members take refuge in the safest place in their building, the reinforced hideout of triggerhappy drug lord Hi-Hatz (Jumayne Hunter) and his slow-moving cohort Ron (Nick Frost). Look also for Luke Treadaway as Brewis, a stoner who through a cannabis haze cannot quite comprehend the apocalyptic events unfolding around him.
As for the aliens, they reminded me of the Tasmanian Devil in the old Warner Brothers cartoons. They’re vaguely apelike and covered with hair so black it seems to absorb light. They’d be invisible at night except that their teeth — several rows of them — glow a light stick green. They’re like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat with a bloodlust.
“Attack the Block” has a drive-in movie, Roger Corman feel, but it’s been very well made and acted (listen for the powerful blend of hip-hop and industrial that flavors Steven Price’s fantastic musical score).
Moreover, halfway through you realize that Moses and his gang are precisely the sort of kids who participated in Great Britain’s recent spate of urban rioting.
No jobs, no hope, no future…this is what you get.
Not that you go to a movie like this to have your consciousness raised.
You go to have fun, and “Attack the Block” delivers.