Wednesday 11 May 2011

Review: Attack the Block

Year: 2011
Director: Joe Cornish
Screenplay: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Nick Frost

Synopsis is here

Film Critics eh? Who'd be one? Constantly told that one cares about your opinion and yet the moment you say something out of joe six bloggs regular opinion, you're jumped on. Case in point: Robbie Collins one star review on Joe Cornish's Attack the block. The review considers the film as utter rubbish and that it's other hyped by PR, American bloggers and reviewers that should know better. Suddenly out of the woodwork come people who probably haven't seen the movie yet considering Collins as "the worst critic ever" etc. It's not Collin's best critique (in fact his facebook elaboration is far more interesting) however the abhorrent attack from twitter wankers complaining, most probably due to their blinded love for the Adam and Joe show is irritating*.

Such blinkered views have neatly avoided the fact that Collin has posed some points that should be looked at. The most probing for me is the idea that the film lacks likeable characters. Characters within Attack the Block would not look out of place in say Harry Brown, a film with notoriously 2-D gangland chav villians for middle England to revel in their bloodlust at when Michael Caine goes medieval on their asses. If ATB merely transported those same flat characters into a sci-fi flick and yelled "care for them now" then I could easily agree with Mr Collins.

However, Attack the Block is not that film and I disagree with Robbie quite a bit (yep, he's replied to a tweet once so clearly first name terms). Attack the Block is a down and dirty genre picture that I found consistently appealing and entertaining throughout. I loved the vibrancy and urgency, really got into the characters and the stakes and admired the style that Cornish placed into. The film comes off as a robust mixture of Goonies, Predator and Kidaulthood and despite the opening gambit appearing quite harsh (rooting for 5 hoods who mug an innocent nurse) the film displays more than enough footing to allow us to invest in these characters.

There are flaws within the film that did make me question the high prise that many have given it slightly. The dialogue honestly sounds scripted, some of the performances are a little raw, I chuckled a bit but not as much as I had hoped and some of the secondary characters really could have been bulked up. However Cornish manages to over ride these niggles with the difficult main relationship between Moses (John Boyega) and Sam (Jodie Whittaker) which hints at troubled upbringings and urban fears and more importantly keeps such aspects complicated. Interestingly the gangs dramatic change (mainly Moses) come from an attack on their own mortality that they clearly never had before. It's also more subtle than a more usual Holywood-equse "sudden realisation" that one would obtain from something like Avatar.

Serious talk about characters aside, the films enthusiasm shines through so much of the future. There's a neatly put together extended chase sequence, more than enough tension throughout (with some good jump scares) and a wonderfully large scope for a film set within one council estate block. The makers of Skyline for all it's CGI effects could learn a lot from Cornish's use of space. The film also has more than enough chucklesome moments to keep the energy high when we're not running from the aliens.

Performance wise Whittaker does really well with a character that isn't naturally sympathetic; robbery an all. John Boyega carries the film well despite it being clearly obvious that it is his first film, while I was quite fond of the character of Pest played by Alex Esmail. A low-key turn by Nick Frost is also welcoming as he seems to have stolen all the best lines.

Attack the Block is the kind of Brit B movie I hope to see more of. Full of moxie and more than enough style to go with it. It could have been funnier and it is a little rough around the edges, but that's not enough to distract from the fact that the film will be a Friday night fun flick for many cult nights in to come.

*Yeah, that's a generalisation, but no more so than the "worst critic ever" tags labelled on people because they like/dislike something that they did/didn't