Thursday, 19 May 2011

REVIEW: Attack The Block - Aliens in the Hoodies

So is Attack The Block the next film that continues people to shout from the rooftops about how 2011 is the second coming for British cinema? Or is it, as Total Film might describe it using there patented "X film meets Y film" poster quotes, "Eden Lake meets Critters" with a group of happy-slapping hoodies as unlikeable lead characters?
Ultimately, it's a bit of both, and I won't let the fact that I met Joe Cornish last week, who is a lovely man by the way, have any effect on my review!

Kids find an alien after it crashlands on Earth.  So far, so Spielberg but this alien landed in South London and gets its head kicked in by a bunch of hoodies. Rather than Spielberg, Cornish draws more influence from the work of John Carpenter and it plays out like a British sci-fi version of Assault of Precinct 13 as our hoodies fight off a group of pissed off aliens from tearing up their yard (to use the modern parlance of our times).
As a sci-fi horror/thriller it is very effective, building tension and atmosphere and delivering on action but don't go to ATB expecting a hilarious Shaun Of The Dead style comedy as has been marketed.  There is some humour in it but mainly the odd quip to break the tension and usually spoken by the characters of Pest or Brewis.
The film certainly nips along at a fantastic pace, with a running time of 88 minutes it is the perfect antidote to the bum-numbing summer blockbusters like Pirates Of The Caribbean.
The lean running time does create a problems however in how it affects the protagonists.
The movie opens with the audience following Jodie Whittaker's nurse Sam as she walks home from work.  Before she gets there she is mugged by a group of hoodies, and they are interrupted when an alien crashlands into a nearby car and they quickly kill.  The story then follows these kids as they return to their council estate aka "The Block" triumphantly showing off their trophy only for a few dozen of it friends to come and attack them seeking retribution.
The problem which many people have had with the film is that the main characters are unlikeable and unsympathetic, therefore making it difficult to care about their fate when their lives are at stake.  In cinematic terms, they would be considered anti-heroes, but this only really works when the characters go on a journey and you see them change by the end of the film.  The perfect example of this is Phil Connors in Groundhog Day.  The problem with the kids in ATB is that they don't get any real screen time to develop their characters beyond the briefest of sketches, thus preventing me from empathising with them.

The cast were scared to see that Robbie Collin's 1 star review was lurking around the corner
Putting this major flaw aside, it does work as a purely enjoyable thrill ride and there is some interesting social commentary within the film; Moses remarks to Sam that they wouldn't have mugged her if they knew she lived in the block and Sam replies "but it's OK if I don't?!" and what is more dangerous, the aliens outside or the visious drug dealers running the block?
Cornish certainly displays enough filmmaking talent to warrant his name being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Richard Ayoade, Gareth Edwards and Duncan Jones.  I look forward to the inevitable spoof version At-toy-ck The Block!

3 stars

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