Starring: Nick Frost, Jodie Whitaker, Luke Treadaway, John Boyega, Paige Meade, Danielle Vitalis, Somin Howard
Director: Joe Cornish
Writer(s): Joe Cornish
Cinematography: Thomas Townend
Original Score: Steven Price
Running Time: 88 Mins.
I have a growing dislike for the more mainstream films from the British industry, it would seem that the hoodie/gang culture has provided an excellent platform for which aspiring Brit’s to jump off, whether it be for dramatic effect (of which they have appeared in their droves, following the initial success of Kidulthood), horror (Eden Lake) or out-and-out comedy (Anuvahood). However for the one or two that are actually good, Harry Brown and the aforementioned Eden Lake, most are bland identikit films that trawl the media stereotypes meaning we are represented with gang after gang of mixed race youths who are on the whole deeply annoying (unintentional) parodies spouting their inner city slang such as bruv, merc and innit, and pulling out blades and/or guns left right and centre, depressing as it is this is what the British film industry and the youth of today is provided with as entertainment.
So forgive me for initially writing Attack the Block off as yet another in a long line of dire gang culture films, the trailer alone was a painful enough experience, seemingly edited down to appeal to the most dumbass of cinemagoers…witness my surprise as I can happily say, ignore the trailer, ignore the way each of the amateur actors come across as just that, amateur and ignore that this looks like Kidulthood + Aliens. Before you get too excited however, it is far from being the amazing feat of cinema many critics have suggested, it is however an enjoyable romp that moves at a lick and has a clutch of convincing turns by first-time actors plucked from the suburbs in which the film is set.
Director Cornish (of the Adam & Joe Show, admittedly something I have never watched) was quick to point out he has taken inspiration from many sources, and much like Shaun of the Dead (to which this has drawn lofty comparisons) the nods to films ranging from Critters to The Goonies to John Carpenter’s The Thing are used as a platform to jump off rather than for the purpose of parody, something which means you aren’t left thinking “oh, that scene was ripped from a much better film”. Obviously the height of Shaun is never hit, Cornish isn’t as skilled a writer and paints everything a little to broadly and as the film shifts into it’s third act he makes a grave error in trying to make social commentary on what makes the hoodies who they are and why they do what they do, it tries for apathy and only serves to hit the audience like a sledge-hammer in a Daily Mail-like assault.
While I’m on the negatives, Jodie Whitaker is terrible as the main female presence, put to shame by the kids who are in turn realistic (prior to the sermonizing scenes), funny (ignore the terrible and unfunny scenes n the trailer, they work much better in context), and convincing, particularly John Boyega as the leader who ends cutting an iconic and heroic figure, I never expected THAT from the marketing! The action, as I said, is non-stop and well staged but the trump card is in the direction…Cornish may not be the greatest writer but he sure knows where to point a camera, opening with a fantastic establishing shot he is relentless but not showy and allows the film to belie its low-budget restrictions with some very well staged action set pieces that could match many of the summer’s blockbusters for sheer excitement, and more than that there is often a nice line originality as the kids employ all kinds of things as weapons (rockets being my favourite).
No, it isn’t amazing and doesn’t break any boundaries, there are still flickers of the hoodie/gang culture, particularly in Drug King High Hat and the slang is bandied around a little too much but given I largely forgot about it shows that either it was prevalent enough to bother me or made the characters more likeable…either way it doesn’t hinder the film enough to instill too much criticism. Nick Frost shows up for a bgger role than expected but adds very little, and the slide into stoner comedy towards the finale is dangerously close to spoiling much of the hard work, thankfully the actions of Boyega in reluctant action hero mode distract enough have you leave with a smile rather than a scowl.
Attack the Block is a success for Cornish in that he manages to (mostly) over-ride the awful trailer that promised yet another dire Brit film, far from being great I am just happy to say this is good, solid and entertaining with some inspired direction that bodes well for future films, all that and I’ve not even mentioned the unique and creepy alien design.