Review: Attack the Block - Aliens vs Street Thugs

The summer’s second “kids versus aliens” movie doesn’t come out until July 29, but we had the opportunity to catch a sneak preview of Attack the Block.  Aliens attack South London, particularly a rough neighborhood known for its teenage street toughs.  Written and directed by Joe Cornish, the movie is fast paced and never goes in quite the way one would expect.  Unlike the more family-friend Super 8, Attack the Block is scary, gory, and surprising yet somehow manages some hilarious moments as well. 

The teenage cast hold their own, never becoming too over the top in their tough gang act to become cartoonish.  The group dynamic between the five teenagers feels real, as though these kids really have grown up together and the hierarchy of the gang feels natural; each member has his role and everyone looks out for everyone else.  By the time they’re facing danger from every direction, you’re rooting for these kids who aren’t exactly shining examples of quality role models.

Nick Frost plays the comic relief as he usually does, this time as a stoner who provides the kids with drugs and the movie with laughs to prevent it from becoming too overly dramatic.  Despite the dire situation these kids face, the movie never becomes an all out horror film or gets too dark.  If Simon Pegg had made an appearance, this film would have been the alien invasion equivalent of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  It has that same feel of taking a known, cliché genre and twisting it into something new and interesting again.  Even when a "moral of the story" is stuck in there, it doesn't drag the pacing or take away from the excitement and action.  It actually makes sense, no heavy handed reinforcement of lessons here.

Joe Cornish does a great job of directing and the script is fast paced, never a moment lagging.  The aliens are suitably creepy and the explanation of why things happened as they have actually makes sense, which is not always the case in a film about aliens.  My only complaint was often times I couldn’t make sense of what the kids were saying, mostly because of the fast paced slang but also sometimes because of the heavy accents.  Despite that, this was an enjoyable film and different from the larger, more flashy mainstream films of the summer.  Highly recommend when it comes out on July 29.

 

Solid A – aliens that make sense, kids that you root for instead of wanting them to be attacked by aliens, genuinely scary moments and, above all, a story that actually surprises you