Pop Culture at its Best

SXSW 2011: ‘Attack The Block’ is Alien-Adventure Gold

Attack the Block

Directed by Joe Cornish

Written by Joe Cornish

2011, UK

One of the greatest things about SXSW is sitting down to watch a film not knowing what you’re going to get. Attack the Block is one of those films that has started to create buzz here at SXSW. Fast-paced and tightly knit, the story builds, reaches its arch and slides across the finish line effortlessly. With such a smooth, gripping plot, the audience can sit back and enjoy the diverse characters, with their urban language and thick accents unique to South London.

At its core, this is an alien-adventure film where large gremlin-like creatures are rocketed from the sky, and begin descending on a block in South London’s projects where a group of tenacious teenagers live. The teenagers, who work tirelessly each night to terrorize outsiders in order to mark their territory, treat the fuzzy black invaders with glow-in-the-dark teeth no differently. Led by a kid appropriately called Moses (John Boyega), the group takes up arms (think: bats, stakes, fireworks, super soakers and ice-skates) to defend their turf. But through humor and uncensored banter the film also comments on today’s relationships between black, white, old, young, rich, poor, civilian and police.

At times it seems like everyone is more afraid of being caught by the police than they are of being mauled by the aliens. And when, in order to survive, the group is forced to cooperate with one of their former victims, a yuppie white lady named Sam, everyone’s got something to say. One of the teens compliments her place while they’re holed up in her apartment waiting for the door to be beaten down. Sam replies with a sarcastic “thanks” but says she’s thinking of moving because she doesn’t like the area.  This dis, of course, miffs the teenagers who have called the block their home all their lives. “What’s wrong with the area?” one of them demands incredulously, forgetting that he and his bandana-clad friends had just mugged the woman hours earlier.

As Americans, to hear the language of South London with its Ali G-esc catchphrases like, “believe,” is a treat, and as audience-members, the music, a back-and-forth between electronic and rap makes you feel totally in the film, along for the ride, as if you could looked down at your lap and find a videogame controller that would allow you to maneuver the characters through the alien-invasion. Not-surprisingly, the Executive Producer of the film, Edgar Wright, directed Scot Pilgrim Vs. the World, a film made in the image of videogames. And the film’s comedic timing doesn’t miss a beat, like when everyone desperately whips out their cell phones and one by one they realize they’re each low on or out of minutes and texts.

Attack the Block was Joe Cornish’s first feature film and surprisingly, it was Thomas Townend’s first feature as Director of Photography. He did a beautiful job with the look of the film with each transition akin to turning the page on a glossy comic book rich in color and contrast. The appearance of actor Nick Frost, from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was a welcome one, but his character was overshadowed by his younger counterparts, many of whom were new to the screen. Audiences at SXSW were the first to see the film, and it turns out the festival buzz has backbone; Attack the Block is alien-adventure gold.

Alice Gray

1 Comment
  1. […] Our very own Alice Gray reviewed it saying, “Attack the Block is alien-adventure gold” (read the full review here). Distributors are still deciding if they should release the film in North America with subtitles […]

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