Review: Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block (2011)

Directed by: Joe Cornish | 88 minutes | action, comedy, science fiction | Actors: Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Joey Ansah, Franz Drameh, Terry Notary, Paige Meade, Jumayn Hunter, Flaminia Cinque, Leeon Jones, Chris Wilson, Danielle Vitalis, Adam Leese

A film in which Edgar Wright is involved is considered a must-see in advance. The writer-director has made a name for himself with the excellent comedy series ‘Spaced’ and the rather brilliant films ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004) and ‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007). Even without his favorite actor duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, he held his own as director of the comic book adaptation ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ (2010). For ‘Attack the Block’ his participation has unfortunately been limited to the position of executive producer. A rather meaningless title from which it is impossible to deduce the extent of his involvement. Although it can be said on the basis of the end product that it was most likely too small. ‘Attack the Block’ lacks the sharpness that makes the above-mentioned films so strong.

While the material lends itself perfectly to a witty film. Aliens crashing in a London suburb and getting into a fight with the youthful local scum. Because scum it is, without a doubt. Early in the film, the young “heroes” are introduced as they threaten and rob a female passer-by (Sam, played by Jodie Whittaker) with a knife. Even her engagement ring is not sacred to the group of rascals. When later it turns out that they live in the same flat and the kids need Sam’s help as a nurse, there are no excuses. Robbing people is just what they are used to. Although they do regret having robbed someone from their own neighborhood afterwards.

It makes the kids uncomfortable protagonists. That is why it is clever of writer and debut director Joe Cornish that he knows how to arouse sympathy for the street kids. In their fight against the alien monsters, the positive side of their mutual code emerges very clearly: camaraderie up to and including. It is a pity that Cornish, in his portrayal of fifteen-year-old bandleader Moses (debutant John Boyega), falls back on the stereotype ‘raised with a loveless uncle and left to his own devices’. It detracts from Boyega’s phenomenal acting, which goes much deeper than that superficial background.

However, the film is not set up as a social drama. More like comedy with some horror elements. But Cornish is clearly struggling to find the balance. As a horror, the film isn’t scary enough and as a comedy it’s simply not fun enough. And as social commentary not convincing enough, but that aside. ‘Attack the Block’ mainly relies on innovation in the choice of setting and characters. And luckily he delivers more than enough for a positive viewing experience. The group of children, especially the very young, are a joy to watch. When the threat is greatest, it turns out that the smallest bitches have the most oomph. They don’t need adults (let alone an army) to firmly crush the alien threat.

Not that there aren’t adults involved. Sam plays a binding role and house-garden drug dealer Ron (a somewhat lackluster Nick Frost) offers the ideal hiding place. But otherwise it’s old fashioned the little ones against the big ones. Where a few of the little ones irrevocably (and quite bloody) lose out. In that respect ‘Attack the Block’ is definitely a movie with guts. Next time just a little more spice and a better balance and Joe Cornish will have a nice late career as a quirky director!

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