At a Special Screening for the New Movie
Unfolding across one dark Bonfire night inside a 90 running time -- and we do mean running time -- Attack the Block is set in a place where they don't make movies. And that's just the start of its rowdy pleasures.
It kicks off with a mugging: a gang of five young hooded teen thugs rob a nurse (Jodie Whitaker) at knife-point in South London, only to be interrupted by a vicious ET that crashes to earth. Their leader Moses (John Boyega) shanks it -- unknowingly making them the target for an invasion of flesh-ripping alien monsters.
From there, Attack The Block never stops powering, riding the rails of the genre while bending them with fresh ambition, invention and wit. Cornish might be knowingly mashing Spielbergian childhood fantasy and love for lockdown '80s sci-fi schlock-horrors like Critters and Tremors, but he never elbows at us with overt movie-references. The fear and funnies are all anchored in reality, as Cornish and debut DoP Tom Townend cinematise the familiar brilliantly: strip-lit tower-block corridors (shot like the spaceship Nostromo from Alien), weapons (fireworks equal missile launchers) and vehicles (pizza-delivery scooters are almost clunky retro-tech) all become bigger than life.
Like exec producer Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block nails that oh-so-tricky double-bull's-eye of horror and comedy. In between stitching together some exciting set-pieces, Cornish packed script jumps with kicky street-slang and pop-culture gags. The sweary, funny teenspeak is rattled off with rude relish by his young cast of likeable newcomers, with brooding lead-man Boyata making impactful work of the movie's most fully rounded character while Luke Treadaway has a ball as a posh stoner lisping faux-gangsta bon mots.
Cleverly, Attack the Block's gorilla-wolf-looking monsters are the snarling embodiment of all the tabloid buzzword used to described our hero-hoodies. While the aliens remain unknowable black beasts -- prowling blotches of dead space with no eyes and glowing neon fangs -- the youngsters gradually evolve from caricatures to characters.
Unsurprisingly, Attack The Block is way better at getting its teeth into cinematics than social issues. Some underwritten characters and repetition mean it's not quite the cult classic it wants to be. But Cornish's movie brings everything home with bang, ending on a terrific slo-mo climax that flies the Union Jack for a new kind of Brit cinema. Allow it.