In the first 5 minutes of Attack The Block, you realise that this film isn’t Independence Day meets Shaun of the Dead. It’s a totally different beast. You can compare it to Super 8 or Stand By Me if you like, but that would be the kind of lazy marketing spiel that you’d probably see on the poster and it wouldn’t do this film justice as a great bit of sci-fi fun.
Joe Cornish, the comedian and one half of The Adam and Joe Show, as well as one of the screenwriters of the new Tin Tin film, has made a superior Brit sci-fi film that manages to be an all out actioner with laughs, rather than an all-out comedy with action (i.e. Shaun of the Dead). It’s directed with energy and style, and the council estate is portrayed as a brilliantly labyrinthine and atmospheric place. It’s full of great characters and funny dialogue, all spoken with the authenticity of someone who has done their research in to how these kids talk. (Joe Cornish spent a long time researching the dialogue to make it sound accurate, and pulls it off without it sounding cliché.)
The story concerns Moses and his gang of friends who live on a Wembley council estate. It’s Halloween and they’re looking to exploit the police’s stretched resources by mugging some innocent people. Now, that doesn’t sound like your average bunch of kids in a sci-fi movie. And that’s part of the charm and interest- and how it takes what is a fairly traditional storyline and make it original. These kids aren’t do-gooders or wholesome Americans looking to make a zombie film (Super 8 comparison over) but real kids who struggle to survive and want to make more of themselves.
Moses and his gang rob a nurse, but are distracted when the car they are standing next to explodes after being hit by a firework. It turns out this isn’t a firework at all, but a nasty little alien. They give chase and once they’ve caught up with it, they kick the crap out of it. Little do they know, that is the beginning of their problems, as soon after, big, fast and fluorescent aliens begin to drop down on the block, putting Moses and his gang in the middle of an alien invasion.
Along the way, the encounter drug dealers, stoners, police, that nurse again (played by Jodie Whitakker) and the action cranks up to a satisfying and fast paced finale. There is real peril here and each character gets his moment to shine.
There might be a few times when you want to know more about these aliens, or to see them in more detail, but you can imagine that the budget just didn’t allow it. That is a very minor quibble. Because when you combine the great acting from an unknown cast; brilliant cinematography; great direction and a foot tapping soundtrack, you’ve got a cult classic on your hands.
And it’s better than Shaun of the Dead. There. I said it.
Have a look at this blog from pagelady, who has studied the linguistics of the film to help Americans understand the dialogue. Of course, Americans wil never understand it, but it goes to show the effort Cornish put in to making it sounds authentic.