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'Attack the Block' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


'Attack the Block' movie poster.
© Screen Gems
With movies like Battle: Los Angeles, Cowboys and Aliens, Super 8 and The Darkest Hour, 2011 is becoming the cinematic Year of the Alien, but the best of the bunch might also be the lowest profile of the bunch: a limited-release import from the UK called Attack the Block.

The Plot

One evening, as fireworks light up the South London sky, something much more sinister comes raining down. An unidentified falling object lands in a working class neighborhood, interrupting a group of hoodied teens as they mug a young nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker). Inside the strange meteorite is a beagle-sized creature that attacks the group's leader, Moses (John Boyega), who quickly rounds up the posse and bludgeons the being to death.

The kids have little time to celebrate their victory, however; more meteorites soon come crashing down, these much bigger than the first. And inside are aliens that are several times larger, vicious gorilla-sized beings who seem to know what the boys have done and who track them down to their high-rise apartment building. It just so happens that Sam also lives there, and she ends up in the crossfire as outer space takes on the inner city.

The End Result

L-R: Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, John Boyega, Alex Esmail and Simon Howard in 'Attack the Block'.

L-R: Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, John Boyega, Alex Esmail and Simon Howard in 'Attack the Block'.

Photo: Liam Daniel © Screen Gems
Attack the Block is rousing fun, as rich of a slice of nostalgia as the more renowned 2011 kids-versus-aliens flick Super 8, with arguably higher entertainment value. If Super 8 is The Goonies, then Attack the Block is The Bad News Bears, with foul-mouthed yet likable rogues who take no guff but are streetwise enough to know to retreat from a bunch of man-eating "gorilla-wolf motherf***ers." A world apart from the small-town kids in Super 8, these city toughs nonetheless deliver a similar brand of breezy Spielbergian romp, albeit wrapped in a more edgy R-rated package.

Horror fans who might have felt miffed at Super 8's family-friendly tone should revel in Attack the Block's graphic gore, language and distinctly unsympathetic creatures. There's no hint of E.T. in these aliens, whose ingeniously simple design (basically, blackness with teeth) makes them the most striking movie monsters in recent memory. It's so refreshing to see a cinematic creature who actually becomes more intimidating the more you see of it.

Running an efficient hour and a half, Attack the Block barrels along at a breakneck pace, taking only brief pauses to inject humor from Nick Frost and Luke Treadway as an affable drug dealer and his customer, respectively. It plays a bit like John Carpenter's Assault of Precinct 13 -- except with aliens (i.e., what Ghosts of Mars should've been) -- as enemies form alliances to fend off a common foe who's laying siege to the building they're in. Despite the film's relatively small scale, it delivers action sequences more intense and exciting than many $100 million blockbusters, thanks to well-planned set pieces and an energetic spirit both in front of the cameras and behind.

Writer-director Joe Cornish of course deserves a bulk of the credit -- so much so that it's amazing to realize that Attack is his feature film debut. The movie is shot with an attractive, larger-than-life cinematic flair, yet the characters ring true (perhaps because Cornish based them on people he's encountered in real life). These aren't bad kids; although they do some bad things, they end up redeeming themselves. They're not the sort of disposable caricatures who in most horror movies would unwittingly mug a maniac in an alley and end up on the wrong end of a machete. The unknown cast of adolescents performs admirably, headed by Boyega, who emits a smoldering, quiet confidence with striking features reminiscent of a young Denzel Washington. Only more British.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B+ (Believable, down to earth.)
  • Direction: B (Deftly handles comedy, action and horror elements.)
  • Script: A- (Funny, exciting and scary but with a heart and even a moral.)
  • Gore/Effects: A (Wonderful CGI monster design and old-fashioned gore makeup.)
  • Overall: A- (Perhaps the most fun you'll have at a movie this year.)

Attack the Block is directed by Joe Cornish and is rated R by the MPAA for creature violence, drug content and pervasive language. Release date: July 29, 2011.

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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