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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
Thrilling Block truly out of this world
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Thrilling Block truly out of this world

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Attack the Block
Opening July 29


Sam (Jodie Whittaker) didn't think her night could get any worse. After being mugged by teenager Moses (John Boyega) and his gang, the trainee nurse managed to get back home to her London apartment block, only to find Moses and his group right on her doorstep. You see, their home has for some reason been targeted for alien invasion by a gaggle of black-haired dog-like creatures with a fondness for human flesh, and with the police stupefied, it's suddenly up to them to save the day.

Next thing Sam knows, she's joining forces with Moses and his crew, as well as the complex's resident drug dealer Ron (Nick Frost) and his number-one client Brewis (Luke Treadaway), to stop these monsters before they're all overrun and viciously devoured. Attacker becomes savior, villain becomes hero, and before the night is done, they'll either make hell pay or punch a one-way ticket to the afterlife - which one it will be, no one is quite sure.

Attack the Block is the best popcorn flick of the entire summer, and I mean that as a gigantic compliment. Popular BBC television personality Joe Cornish makes the jump to the big screen as both writer and director of this hugely entertaining B-movie genre hodgepodge, crafting a fitfully funny and a breathlessly exciting homage to Assault on Precinct 13, Gremlins, Rio Bravo, Night of the Creeps, Escape from New York, and just about everything in between. It is smart, quickly paced, and imaginatively inspired, and when it was over, all I wanted to do was watch the darn thing again.

Made with a fraction of the budget of, say, Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, what Cornish has come up with is pure pulp entertainment on a grandly intoxicating scale. Keeping the focus on the characters - most notably Moses and Sam - he manages to ground things in a realistic setting that's refreshing and natural. As crazy as things become, as silly as some of the bits of humor and comedy can be, as over the top as the action gets, because the characters work, everything they're doing ends up working, as well. The weirdness becomes a natural extension of the plight the forced-to-be heroes suddenly find themselves facing.

Newcomer Boyega has the makings of something special. At the start of the film he's a thug, a brute, and a ruffian who does and says things that immediately put me off. But as the movie continues, the teen's built-up artifice slips away and the semi-shy, emotionally constipated boy begins to emerge. He's fighting for things that cannot be easily explained, and while he knows he's going about trying to care for his family and friends in the wrong way, he's not altogether sure what other options are open to him.

Boyega makes Moses real, and his evolution from child to man is extremely effective. He grows up in the course of this night, learns what real loss is, what true sacrifice entails, and comes to an understanding that doing the right thing might not always be the most profitable, but it is the most rewarding. It's a star-making turn, and since he's still in his teens, I can't wait to discover where this talented young actor goes from here.

Cornish stages things magnificently. Tension ratchets up, yet the laughs keep coming; suspense is generated but the smile on my face never disappeared. The movie builds organically and in a natural rhythm, and all the pieces fall together to craft an elegantly cheerful interstellar urban thriller with very few unseemly edges. I love the fact that Cornish doesn't take prisoners, and just because he's set up a group of characters the viewer can relate to and like, that doesn't mean they will escape evisceration. Anxiety is palpable, and the sense that anyone can be alien dog food is ever-present. While the jokes and gags ease the tension somewhat, there is an undying feeling of pervasive dread.

In the end, the most important thing to know about Attack the Block is how gosh-darn fun it is. This is one of those movies where I was awed by just how much I was enjoying myself. I was laughing and shrieking and squirming and giggling with the rest of the preview audience, the whole thing making me feel like a kid in a candy store. Cornish has delivered the summer's most invigorating supercharged frolic, and to call it anything less than out of this world would be a bloody, man-eating crime.

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