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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
John Boyega
Jodie Whittaker
Alex Esmail
Leeon Jones
Nick Frost.
Directors
Joe Cornish.
Screenwriters
Joe Cornish.
Running Time
88 minutes

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Attack The Block
Assault On Precinct SE1


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Plot
When a group of feral aliens starts terrorising the denizens of a South London tower block, it’s left to a gang of hoodies and a trainee nurse (Whittaker) they’ve just mugged to band together and fight back.


Review
Attack The Block
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It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Joe Cornish take to film directing like a duck to wotsit. After all, this is a guy who’s been unerringly excellent at pretty much everything he’s turned his hand to over the years, from his TV shows with his long-term cohort Adam Buxton, to the marvellously dotty Song Wars (from his radio show with Buxton), to his screenplay work with Edgar Wright, which has gained the stamp of approval from Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and the chaps at Marvel. Even his voiceover work on the landmark 2006 TV show, Orange & Empire At The Movies, is nothing short of seminal (and has had absolutely no bearing on this review, we assure you).

Mind you, the step up to feature film-directing is a huge one to make. There’s a world of difference between recreating classic feature films with teddy bears and directing actual live actors. And yet, Cornish’s Attack The Block is a wonderful slice of sci-fi, and a debut that is as confident as any we’ve seen in years.

There will be lots of lazy comparisons with Shaun Of The Dead, taking into consideration the Edgar Wright link (he’s executive producer). On one level, that’s justified — we’ll be throwing in our own lazy comparison later — but like Belloq in Raiders, people seeking to lump Shaun and Block together are digging in the wrong place. For Attack The Block is really the best movie John Carpenter never made.

From the off, as an ominous, insistent bassline that recalls the best of Carpenter’s scores soundtracks an increasingly skittish Jodie Whittaker’s walk home through busy London streets, Cornish sets his stall out. This is a straight-up, and genuinely ambitious, action thriller that takes its cue from Carpenter’s best movies, combining the siege movie mindset of Assault On Precinct 13 with the grimy sci-fi edge of, say, Escape From New York. His handling of the film’s action set-pieces, with one minor fumble, is excellent, with one extended sequence — in which our hooded heroes use any means of transport they can get their hands on in order to escape to the titular tower block — particularly exciting and never ostentatious.

His masterstroke, though, is in transplanting such decidedly American tropes to a landscape that could only be British, with a cast of heroes it’s fair to say qualify as unlikely. Over the past few years — thanks largely to the Daily Mail, but also flicks like Eden Lake, Harry Brown and F — hoodies have become demonised as evil little bastards, the sort who hang outside your local Costcutter and get all stabby when you’re trying to buy some Sprite.

Interestingly, that’s where Cornish starts, with his motley crew robbing Whittaker’s Sam in the opening minutes, a terrifying vision swathed in black, with only their eyes visible. But, as the first of the alien meteors hits, Cornish doesn’t follow the panic-stricken nurse as she runs off, but stays with the gang, as their leader Moses (John Boyega, the strong and silent core of the film) takes on the toothy terror and kills it. And a curious≈thing happens: as we spend time with the≈gang, we begin to like them, to realise that they’re just scared, bored kids doing their best to get along in the harsh world of the tower block, an unforgiving society in microcosm.

Cornish spent a year researching South London youth culture before writing the screenplay and it shows — there’s an absolute authenticity to the way these kids, all virtual first-timers, giving fantastic turns, walk and talk. And boy, how they talk, at first in incomprehensible splatters of speech that may as well be Klingon, but Cornish cleverly dots the same words — bruv, the ends, truth, believe, merk this, bare that, ghost the other — throughout the movie, letting context define their meaning. By the end, you’ll not only be able to keep up, you’ll be quoting them. Trust.

Given Cornish’s background, laughs are never far away — particularly when Alex Esmail’s motormouthed Pest or Luke Treadaway’s dope-addled Brewis are on screen — but it’s important to realise that Attack The Block is not a comedy. In fact, it becomes increasingly dark as it reaches the finishing line, with a couple of shocking deaths courtesy of the monstrous aliens raising the stakes.

In a cinematic landscape littered with aliens that all look the same, Cornish’s creatures are bold and memorable creations, jet-black and ferocious gorilla-wolves with luminescent teeth and claws, savaging characters in scenes that recall An American Werewolf In London. Occasionally, the budget bites — there are several scenes where characters simply run away from a threat you sense there wasn’t enough cash to show. And Cornish’s inexperience does sometimes show — a set-piece in a gloomy corridor does too good a job of confusing both characters and audience. But these are minor quibbles in a film that’s smart, commercial, original and, particularly in an outstanding slo-mo climax, unashamedly cinematic.


Verdict
Blending laughs, thrills and sci-fi chills with aplomb, Cornish’s debut is nothing less than - yes! - the new Shaun Of The Dead. Believe, bruv.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Attack The Block
Empire Star Rating

Poor

One definitely to avoid. Really looked forward to a new, modern take on 'Alien on Earth' genre. This was rubbish. Badly acted, all the characters were very unlikable (how this is possible when, at the start, there are so many of them, I do not know) and the female lead is dumber than a girl in 1980's slasher pic.She just goes along with whoever is in charge of the pack. Absolute bollocks. You can get away with poor FX in a debut film but you have to back it up with either a good story, great cha... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by biscuitman at 12:56, 22 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Very good!

ck the Block (UK, 2011) My first impressions for this British made sci-fi were not good, not good at all. We are introduced to a small gang of South London youths in your typical modern day gang get up...hoodies, baseball caps, tracksuits, gold chains around their necks, riding bikes and the obligatory Staffy pet dog. This foul mouthed bunch of yobs go about robbing a female passer by at knife point clearly relishing every moment of it. Its at this point I immediately hated what I saw. M... More

Posted by Phubbs at 11:50, 22 February 2013 | Report This Post


More Drivel

especially with a double post ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 18:07, 17 November 2012 | Report This Post


Drivel

Hardly worth my effort to chastise. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 18:07, 17 November 2012 | Report This Post


Hmmm

Love everything Joe (& Adam) do and I REALLY, REALLY wanted to love this film but let's be honest it's a perfect example of a 'first film'. Badly acted (granted it was largely unknowns) the scripts was, well all over the place & I found ALL the characters (whether goodies or eventually goodies) just unlikable & a bit boring. If it was made 6 months after Carpenter's The Thing or even just after Shaun Of The Dead by an unknown director (again I'm a Adam & Joe fan) we'd accuse a sm... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Carfax at 00:59, 10 November 2012 | Report This Post


Loved it.

Just Lovefilmed this, and thought it was brilliant. It was a great atmosphere, and the speech was something I recognised from the kids I teach- they really do talk like this! I thought the music was good enough to permeate and set the mood, without being overbearing, and the leading performance gave a real sense of a brooding teenager living in a rough area. I've met plenty of them, and he did the job admirably. I thought the light touches were good- they didn't feel out of place. On the contrar... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by carmilla_barker at 20:26, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Nothing to do with racism

Recorded this from C4 and watched last night. Did not enjoy this film one iota. Bad writing, bad acting, awful characters - no redeemable qualities whatsoever. 1/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ref at 19:50, 26 June 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Nothing to do with racism

Caught this on Ch4 last night - don't get the love. Very poor acting from most of the gang (especially that one with the 'lapland hat', tried to deliver cool quips and failed every time, so laboured and hammy) and was extremely predictable. I didn't have a problem at all with the heroes being a gang of mugger kids (I thought before watching that this is what would have put me off liking this), it was just a very average scifi thriller. I may not be the desired target audience as I'm an ... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 11:11, 25 June 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Nothing to do with racism

Saw this last year,and Im still unsure rether I liked it or not. Seemed like it wanted to be several things at once. ... More

Posted by OPEN YOUR EYES at 11:42, 06 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Nothing to do with racism

Saw this for the first time on Saturday night, as it never got a cinema release here Really enjoyed it, great work from Jo Cornish, especially considering it was his debut. Solid preformances, especially from the actor who played Moses My gf didnt really enjoy it though, as she said it wasnt really funny. and while its not really meant to be, the stupid tagline on the box is something like 'this years shaun of the dead' or whatever, which is (as Empires review states) just such a lazy... More

Posted by Drew_231 at 10:19, 06 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Nothing to do with racism

When reviews begin to start with "I'm not racist but...." or similar, its time to leave thread. ... More

Posted by Spaldron at 17:51, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Nothing to do with racism

I thought it was a bit like a Dr Who episode with more gore and swearing (and less Who). I really wanted to like this, but thought it was just mediocre. Had it been less violent it would have made a decent kids film with a positive message. ... More

Posted by Herr Schnitzel at 17:45, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post


Nothing to do with racism

I didn't dislike the film because the main protagonists are muggers, or because they're balck for that matter, I disliked it because it was advertised as a horror-comedy and it wasn't funny or scary. It was just a bit shit ... More

Posted by gquinn at 17:40, 06 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Why all the hate?

L: Duckers Hi Rick_7 o. ot so racist on the Empire boards, but you should check some of the other boards (particularly imdb) where it's just basic race hate. Stuff along the lines of "...is it racist to hate black mugger pieces of ****?" and "arrogant blacks who talk in patois" etc.glad I don't spend any time on those boards. s, I agree that the central "hoodies" are difficult to like - and that people are having hostile reactions to this film because they have some grudge agai... More

Posted by rick_7 at 14:57, 05 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Shite at best

Mr E, you're missing the point. The hooded gang are supposed to be threatening. They are intended to play on our fears of street gangs. Their mugging of the nurse, and their killing of the alien (it could have been any "outsider") is natural to them because it's how they believe they can earn respect from their community. Peddling drugs for the local crime lord is the natural progression for Moses (the Biblical allusion is also significant). They are deliberately portrayed as ignorant... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Duckers at 13:58, 05 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Why all the hate?

Hi Rick_7 Maybe not so racist on the Empire boards, but you should check some of the other boards (particularly imdb) where it's just basic race hate. Stuff along the lines of "...is it racist to hate black mugger pieces of ****?" and "arrogant blacks who talk in patois" etc. And, yes, I agree that the central "hoodies" are difficult to like - and that people are having hostile reactions to this film because they have some grudge against real life "hoodies" - but I suppose my point ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Duckers at 13:46, 05 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Why all the hate?

L: Duckers Similarly, the nurse doesn't forgive them for the mugging incident either. The situation they are forced into merely enables her to appreciate their otherwise hidden better natures – qualities that otherwise she wouldn't see or take the effort to see. It's a lesson in empathy and humanity: something entirely lacking from the discussion boards I've seen. is an extremely well-made point. I don't really agree with the rest of your post - people take against the characters becaus... More

Posted by rick_7 at 11:15, 05 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Why all the hate?

Thought this wasn't gonna be good, but it wasn't too bad. Joe Cornish can certainly put a film together , he knows what he's doing. Theres quite a bit that lets it down, but also quite a bit that makes it entertaining. I found whilst watching it that i was thinking, this is good, then the next minute thinking, that wasnt good, then changing my mind again. I didnt like any of the kid characters, they mug that bird, so they're cunts, end off. No character archs, you dont think diffrent of them at... More

Posted by kargon at 09:23, 05 October 2011 | Report This Post


Shite at best

This film had a nice idea but it was poorly executed. The opening sequence shows a group of youths mugging a young lady, which immediately makes it very hard for an audience to get behind these characters. They threaten the woman with a knife, they are all hooded/masked and look very threatening. These are young lads who know what they are doing. Had they been portrayed as a bunch of naughty youngsters who made a pathetic attempt to mug someone (because they're poor and need the money) but... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr E at 20:17, 02 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Sick, you get me.

L: jonson L: roogieman and that the whole thing about the gang being mindless thugs is a bit of a poor point to make. They are flawed protagonists, but they are so because they are a product of the environment. b]I couldn''t disgaree more. The gang mindless thugs, and shouldn't be described any other way. And as for them being a product of their environment - please!!! I know plenty of people brought up in bad surroundings, whether it's poverty stricken estates or an horrend... More

Posted by horribleives at 14:41, 03 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Sick, you get me.

L: roogieman and that the whole thing about the gang being mindless thugs is a bit of a poor point to make. They are flawed protagonists, but they are so because they are a product of the environment. couldn''t disgaree more. The gang mindless thugs, and shouldn't be described any other way. And as for them being a product of their environment - please!!! I know plenty of people brought up in bad surroundings, whether it's poverty stricken estates or an horrendous homelife, or ... More

Posted by jonson at 14:20, 03 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Pretty poor

L: TheHazman The creatures looked like evil muppets y thoughts exactly. ... More

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 14:42, 01 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Pretty poor

L: TheHazman The creatures looked like evil muppets y thoughts exactly. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cruisecontroller at 14:41, 01 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Sick, you get me.

Please don't post to advertise. ... More

Posted by sonicpicturesuk at 15:15, 30 May 2011 | Report This Post


Sick, you get me.

RS**ust saw the film and thought it was great. I think the characters were unlikable in the beginning, but they (especially Moses) go through a real transition throughout the film, and that the whole thing about the gang being mindless thugs is a bit of a poor point to make. They are flawed protagonists, but they are so because they are a product of the environment. What Joe Cornish does to counter point their flaws is show an actual 'Daily Mail' style threat, the aliens are the blacker than bl... More

Posted by roogieman at 22:58, 27 May 2011 | Report This Post


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