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.
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.
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
Excellent. Really enjoyed this, had a few issues with it (I didn't like the way Moses was the i] at the end, the kids chanting his name etc. He was scumbag, pure and simple) but the kids all players their parts well I thought, the humour had me laughing many times but the Aliens. Wow!
Having been brought up on a diet of classic Predator and Alien designs, I have never been convinced about film aliens at all. Apart from Critters hese, being just black (had they taken the colour ... More
Overall this is an entertaining comedy horror which is worth seeing if you like Shaun of The Dead but it isn`t as good as that or as funny but it should appeal to the same fan base. However it`s low budget at times making it look grittier and more belivable at other times does the opposite with the monsters. The monsters to me are what lets this otherwise enjoyable movie down as to me the baby alien is far more scary like something from the Alien franchise than the adult ones tha... More
From what I've read and heard, Cornish has gone to some length to downplay the 'comedy' aspect attached to the movie. Until I saw it, I assumed he was just trying to stop people expecting another SotD but it seems he may have been actually trying to give people a more accurate idea of what the film is like, rather than how it's been marketed. I should have paid more attention to him really.
eah, that was part of the 'argument' between Cornish and Kermode. I had listened to Corn... More
I found I didn't enjoy as much as I was expecting to (probably due to expecting too much). As a directorial debut, I think ATB is a very accomplished effort. It's atmospheric, well-acted (for the most part), and it ratchets up the tension nicely at times. The main problems I had were the fact that many of the characters are pretty difficult to warm to (being, as they are, thieving and violent gang members), and it was much bleaker and less funny than I was anticipating. As I... More
Kermode but he was way off on that point. Why did it need to be funnier? think the reason why he and so many others (including myself) expected it to be funnier was because that's how it was sold. The trailer spent the majority of its time highlighting the half dozen jokes rather than the suspense and horror that made up 95% of it, while the posters all had quotes like 'Hilarious' and proudly displayed that it was from the producers of Shaun of the Dead. Consequently it's no wonder a lot of peo... More
I like Kermode but he was way off on that point. Why does it need to be funnier?
'm guessing he was expecting something different too. I got the impression that he and Joe were fans of each other but the interview was a bit awkward. I missed some of it, may give it another listen actually.
There have been complaints that this movie isn't very funny, although I think this was an entirely intentional move on Cornish's part.
r. Sexy say on Kermode and Mayo that the film isn't mean to be a laugh-a-minute romp. He wanted it to be tense and exciting with humour thrown in, rather than the other way around. He was a bit annoyed with Kermode when he said he didn't think it was funny enough. I knew this before going to see it, so I wasn't expecting it to be jokes a... More
Saw this today and I enjoyed the fuck out of it. Had I not known any better, I would of thought that Cornballs had experience at directing feature length movies. There have been complaints that this movie isn't very funny, although I think this was an entirely intentional move on Cornish's part. But there are some genuinely laugh out loud moments to take the edge off some of the scarier scenes.
Generally exciting and tense stuff. I'm looking forward to Cornish directing more movies. ... More
Enjoyed watching this but must admit to being a little disappointed - not because I thought the film was bad but because I was expecting a comedy. Everything about the way it was marketed including the trailer seemed to point to it as being an out and out comedy, but for me it was more of a straight horror with a few jokes thrown in. Throughout the whole thing the most it did was raise a mild chuckle which made me feel a little cheated by the end, when really it was a v... More
The film has it's problems but I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
I honestly did not see the ending coming. The whole use of the flag thing? Excellent set-up. We see the flag all the way through the film but are given no indication that it is Moses' flat. Really well done. Much better than the 'I can jump that' set-up which is paid off too soon and basically goes nowhere. Plus, I thought the aliens were bloo... More
ere will be spoilers*****
I'm a big fan of Adam and Joe, my love of them being rekindled in late 2009 when I 'discovered' them on 6music only 2 weeks before they went off air for Joe to get his film made. I'd been a fan during their C4 years, but lost track of them a little after that. Rediscovering them, however, has been one of my cultural highlights of the past few years and listening to their (very funny) radio show, Joe's love of film comes across plainly, so sitting down to watch his ... More
I love how in Action and Sci-fi (well, fiction in general) we regularly accept murderers, corrupt cops, mercenaries and outright nut-jobs as heroes, but apparently asking the same of a bunch of poor black kids is just too much.
don't think it's that simple at all. I'd still hate the characters if they were upper class white kids from Texas... Antiheroes work if they have either something redeemable or sympathetic about them, or at least within the parameters of their sit... More
I love how in Action and Sci-fi (well, fiction in general) we regularly accept murderers, corrupt cops, mercenaries and outright nut-jobs as heroes, but apparently asking the same of a bunch of poor black kids is just too much. ... More
I also read in Empire review that we 'begin to like the gang'. tn't for one moment stop thinking 'what a bunch of little turds'. There really isn't anything at all likeable about any of them. They exemplify the worst in youth culture. It's a shame really, because in reality their situation is obviously far more complex. But for some reason Cornish relies solely on their humour and street attitude to charm us.
Look at films like Taxi Driver, Unforgiven, The Warriors ... More
They're not supposed to be likeable bad guys though. They're anti heroes of sorts. And by the end of the film, Moses starts to learn to take responsibility for his actions. Plus, apart from the mugging at the start, which they try and atone for, what do they actually do that's so awful?
He skirts over the subtext because it is subtext. It's subtle by definition. No need to dwell on it and draw away from the main focus of the film. He made the point pretty clearly. ... More
ho knows how the dynamic would change when you're being attacked by aliens... Just saying: let's remember that, at the end of the day, there are aliens in this film, so any 'gritty reality' is going to be a little skewed.
You have got to be kidding me. She didn't seem THAT scared by the Aliens. Either she's shitting herself about the aliens and therefore needs help from the gang, or she isn't that bothered about the aliens and therefore doesn't care about the gang either. Call it bad acting if... More
At the end of the day it just wasn't gritty or believable enough. Aliens aside, the gang wasn't believable, nor was the woman who was mugged. seriously - there would be any kind of 'moment' between her and Moses? Please./quote]
Who knows how the dynamic would change when you're being attacked by aliens... Just saying: let's remember that, at the end of the day, there are aliens in this film, so any 'gritty reality' is going to be a little skewed.
At the end of the day it just wasn't gritty or believable enough. Aliens aside, the gang wasn't believable, nor was the woman who was mugged. I mean seriously - there would be any kind of 'moment' between her and Moses? Please.
The fact that Moses 'wins' in the end made me dislike the film even more. He and his gang are complete bastards and I would have preferred if he had been torn to pieces. But if the writers are suggesting he is a product of his environment, like a few people have sug... More
I don't think the film suggests South London is shitloads of fun and that all "hoodies" are actually witty and loveable. The only real subtext in the film is that young criminals are often products of their environment and are real people. Everything else was just daft entertainment. ... More
Oddly Chris Tookey really liked it. His review was very similar to Empire's actually.
I thought it was great. Got funnier, ballsier and more exciting as it went on. The kids did well and I liked the arc of Moses' character. Cool, fun and original. ... More
I was disappointed with this.
I was really hoping for something better from the brilliant Joe Cornish, something more consistent with his obvious talent. I can only wonder how difficult this film was to make and it certainly won't stop me seeing his next effort, which I really hope comes soon.
There were some lovely moments, and there was something quite fresh about certain moments that suggested Cornish was a talent to be watched, that we were going to enjoy bigger and better things ... More