Attack the Block

Shantella Y. Sherman | 8/12/2011, 8:05 p.m.
The press screening invitation for Attack the Block touted the film as a British sci-fi...
A group of teens go head-to-head with space aliens who crash land in their South London council housing estate in the new sci-fi film Attack the Block. /Courtesy photo

The press screening invitation for Attack the Block touted the film as a British sci-fi / comedy from the directors of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim. Having fallen for the science fiction genre through clever and well-written productions like Doctor Who and Torchwood, the move to sci-fi / comedy seemed doable. But I wasn't exactly sold on the theme: inner city versus outer space. While I was initially doubtful, Attack the Block is by far the most impressive film of the summer.

What Attack the Block offers is a clever, funny, and action packed film that pits band of space aliens against some of South London's rough and tumble youth. Set in South London, the film opens with a group of teens attempting to rob a young woman on the outskirts of their council housing estate. The robbery is interrupted by the crash landing of an alien just inches from them. Instead of running for their lives, the "hoodies" decide to kick some alien butt. The kids win the initial battle, but soon find themselves being pursued by a host of bigger, badder, aliens.

"I wanted to make a film about characters I really cared about," Writer-director Joe Cornish said. "I find a lot of the humor in contemporary movies a little bit sort of macho and obnoxious and cynical. You know, my gang, they do a bad thing in the beginning, but they don't argue with each other. They're not jostling to be the leader. It doesn't go with that conflict-is-drama thing. Actually, this film is about the unity of the gang and how they're loyal to each other."

The aliens, literally, attack the block of council housing, trapping the residents in their homes with only the team of teen warriors to save them. Unlikely heroes though they may seem, the characters are each loveable and believable. Matching street smarts and ingenuity, the members fight aliens with crude, everyday tools, without a typical gun or knife at hand.

The cast is led by John Boyega, who makes his film debut as the gang's stalwart leader Moses. Boyega is agile, handsome, and talented. Boyega's performance isimpassioned and emotional, with him moving effortlessly from menacing to vulnerable.

"It's based on having great characters. If you care about the characters and you care about the journey you are able to release yourself and get lost in the story. It's just so fun, like you get involved in the situation as an audience member and put yourself in it," Boyega said.

Reminiscent of Noel Clarke's Kidulthood / Adulthood films, Attack the Block invites stateside viewers into council housing, and the lives of rambunctious teens. The language is peppered with British youth slang and euphemism, but rest assured, no subtitles are needed. And though classified as a gang, the alien chasers are more a threat to themselves than the people around them.

The dialogue of the film is insightful, adroit, and at times, quirky, but never preachy or stereotypical. In fact, in one scene Cornish has the exhausted Moses sigh in frustration, "White people sent these aliens in here to get us. We weren't killing each other quick enough. First it was the drugs, then the weapons, now it's aliens."