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Attack the blockbuster,
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This review is from: Attack The Block - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD) (Blu-ray)
Comedian Joe Cornish's debut film is a fun, inventive and highly original creature feature with a serious social message at its heart. The theme of Alien domination of Earth has been done to death in recent years, typically with massively overblown CGI effects, but Cornish's British low-budget debut takes a very different approach from the Hollywood blockbuster, localising the alien attack to one grimy tower block of a South London council estate.
A gang of South London hoodies mug nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) on bonfire night as she returns home from her shift, but are interrupted when an object crashes into a nearby parked car. Gang-leader Moses is attacked and bitten by a creature hiding within and, enraged, pursues it to a nearby shelter to beat it to death, while Sam takes the opportunity to escape. The gang agree that that the creature must be from outer space ("that's a alien bruv, believe!"), and parade the corpse through the streets like a trophy, returning to the hang-out of resident drug-dealer and horticulturalist Ron (played by a long-haired, shell-suit wearing Nick Frost). However, it is not long before much larger, more aggressive beasts begin to fall from the sky, drawn to the tower block where Moses and his friends reside. Later in the film, Cornish offers up a very sound biological explanation for the invasion, rather than avoiding the issue like most brainless blockbusters.
Sam is left justifiably shaken, shocked and angry at her attack, but eventually comes to rely on her assailants as her protectors as they are forced to face up to responsibility; a mutual respect developing between them. One character early on describes the kids as `***king monsters'. Indeed they are, to begin with at any rate. This leftfield (though hardly new) approach seems to have irked some viewers who clearly like their heroes to be whiter then white - as though life was that simple; as though the line between good and evil was so well defined. Cornish's well-made and optimistic point is that nobody is beyond redemption. In Attack the Block there is no glorification of the street violence that has become so relevant in the UK today, nor is there a patronising moral; only the central message that actions have consequences. Cornish is also careful to remind us throughout that despite everything our protagonists are, after all, still only children.
The young unknown cast is excellent; fresh and natural, and particularly the performance of John Boyega, thoroughly believable as villain turned hero, Moses. There are no terrible fake accents either - Cornish uses local kids as his protagonists, using local lingo.
Comparisons with Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead are inevitable, but unwarranted; they're quite different films. The characters in ATB are not comedic ones, and though the film has been made with plenty of wit and humour it is in fact at times a quite serious horror-thriller. Cornish is not scared to despatch some of his young actors to let us know he means business. In some ways it reminds me more of the early films of John Carpenter, which is no mean compliment. The film is full of neat touches and tips its hat to other sci-fi and cult films. The kids themselves live in `Wyndham House', a reference to the author of the classic novel `Day of the Triffids', and watch out for some nods to Spielberg's E.T, among others.
Cornish wrings absolutely everything from his £9 million budget, and is to be applauded for his creativity. Perhaps the climax could have benefitted from the extravagance that a few extra million pounds could bring, but it doesn't matter because part of ATB's charm is its small scale. The creatures themselves are extremely effective; jet black shadows with the majority of emphasis on rows of razor sharp teeth, luminous in the dark, where most of the action takes place. There's very little CGI; the creatures and their movements are actually mostly portrayed by a man in a suit. ATB's pacing is also spot-on, with a series of exhilarating action scenes and chase sequences, and at times it's heart-pounding stuff, aided by a thumping soundtrack by Steven Price and Basement Jaxx.
The blu-ray quality in terms of both picture and audio is superb, and there are some fine extras on the disc too, including a very interesting featurette on the how the aliens were designed, created and filmed.
Though not quite perfect, and undoubtedly not to everybody's taste, this is a thoroughly excellent genre film, bursting with energy and creativity, and for me a solid 9/10. I loved it.