Saturday, July 12, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

‘Attack the Block’: London teens, hungry aliens, high energy & fun

About the movie
Attack the Block
Genre:
Action, Adventure
MPAA rating:
R
for creature violence, drug content and pervasive language
Running time:
01:28
Release date:
2011
Rating:
Cast:
Flaminia Cinque; Nick Frost; Joey Ansah; Luke Treadaway; Jodie Whittaker
Directed by:
Joe Cornish

"ATTACK the Block" has a cast of nobodies, the cheesiest special effects this side of Velveeta, and it's the best sci-fi movie you'll see this summer.

If you can find it.

How do you feel about Cherry Hill?

That's the only place the movie is playing, no doubt due to its extreme Britishness (subtitles would help, bruv), its lack of star power - Nick Frost is the only thing close to a name in the cast.

"ATB" has a nice pedigree, though - produced by Edgar Wright, who directed Frost in "Shaun of the Dead," a movie this one semiresembles for the way it mixes genre ingredients and laughs.

Another distant relative: JJ Abrams' underattended "Super 8," a sci-fi tribute to Steven Spielberg and a movie that set out to recapture the simple thrills of movie-going.

There are plenty of those in "Attack the Block," also an alien-arrival movie built around a teen cast, though in feel much more like early John Carpenter.

It's set in and around a London apartment building, on a night that begins with a group of hoodie-wearing boys - led by the auspiciously named Moses (John Boyega) - robbing a local nurse (Jodie Whittaker).

One of the neat ideas at work in "ATB" is the predator/prey dynamic, the way behaviors and attitudes change when circumstances change. The boys get a taste of this when they're set upon by what appears to be an enormous black dog. It's a meat-eating alien, the first of many such creatures that infiltrate the neighborhood.

Writer-director Joe Cornish borrows and updates a classic-sci horror device - the boys are the only ones aware of the invasion, and no one believes them. In fact, the more trouble arises, the more the lads are blamed. Everybody wants a piece of them - the bobbies, a local drug kingpin.

The twist Cornish devises is a good one - to beat back the alien invasion and to survive, Moses finds he must make an ally of the hard-nosed nurse that he robbed, and vice versa. Each learns to see the other as an individual, and Moses faces a challenge more daunting than an alien attack - he has to grow up.

Frost, a pot farmer who grows weed in his top-floor greenhouse, is on hand to provide laughs. Luke Treadaway, as his best customer, is pricelessly funny, and as it turns out, crucial to the plot.

Cornish shows a real knack here for keeping action, suspense, gore and laughs in their proper proportion - the body count is surprisingly high for a movie with this many laughs (more of a genre movie than a comedy, as opposed to "Shaun").

And he's able to keep track of his robust ensemble cast, giving each character his due. My favorites - Props and Mayhem, a couple of pre-teens trying to make their bones in Moses' "gang."

Cornish's debut feature is low on budget, but high on energy, and great fun. A perfect way to close out the summer movie season.

Gary Thompson Daily News Film Critic
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