* Jodie Whittaker
* John Boyega
* Alex Esmail
* Luke Treadaway
* Nick Frost
Director:- Joe Cornish
What do you get when you take 5 knife savvy, hoody wearing yobs, throw in a couple of hairy aliens and add a dash of Adam & Joe to taste?
This year’s surpise hit – ‘Attack The Block’. Written and directed by British comedian and writer Joe Cornish. A man who had mysteriously vanished from my television screen at the turn of the millennium. To my recent knowledge, however, he has apparently been busy helping out his mate, Edgar Wright. Later steadily working away on the script for a film about a quiffed, fictitious, teenage Belgian nosey-noser.
I won’t go into the history of Mr Cornish, but, given that he has come from such humble beginnings as a flick on, flick off television comedian to one of the most promising directors in Britain. I’d say take the time to watch some of his material on YouTube with Adam Buxton.
On a small budget, and with a crop of very inexperienced actors…. Block really appears, on first glance, to be doomed to failure. However the incorporation of mild pop culture references, very realistic characterisation, and a believable setting ushers the film to a height that was probably inconceivable at the time of production – the merits of Block is suitably on the chests of the young, inexperienced cast who become overnight heroes in the inner city.
The story focusses mainly on Moses (Boyega), a 15-year-old gang leader, who causes trouble with his 4 fellow hoodlums (who all live in the same housing estate as Moses) around the titular ‘block’ they call home. They approach a nurse (Whittaker) walking home from work, where they promptly threaten her and mug the defenceless woman. Suddenly, a meteor crashes into a car nearby – and the Block will never be the same again…
The five teens, are so in-sync in terms of diction, attire and body language of the British youth of today it’s almost impossible to consider them actors. It may sound like a negative observation, but it works to the film’s advantage. Casting an experienced group of actors with no realistic connection to their role would have caused the whole movie to cave in. Making it more of a caricature of today’s culture, a laughable (a bad one) parody. I didn’t recognise them as acting on-screen, portraying a character. They appear to be just being themselves, and seem to have great fun with it. It’s an original, simple and refreshing approach to methodically creating an ensemble – while working cleverly with friend Edgar Wright’s well-known sweet timing for comedic quips. I sincerely applaud Joe Cornish for using common sense, where most in his position would overwhelmingly fail to do so.
The film’s backdrop of an inner city council estate is obviously not the first choice for an alien invasion film. Though, it’s something that we can indeed relate to from some point in our lives, as well as the characters themselves – and again, this is what gives the film a wedge of merit. John Boyega, the film’s lead, combines the multi-facets of a troublesome teen that we can all admit to have encountered. He’s headstrong, volatile, vulnerable and ultimately very selfless. The fact that those negative and not so appealing qualities to his character carry the film is something that I found a potential limitless effect.
Ok, so enough brown-nosing….
At a short runtime of just under 90 minutes, Attack The Block is a great watch for the casual film fan. It may have faired better by adding more suspense elements to the alien invasion angle, as the only few do tend to fall flat on repeat viewings, and the occasional scary moments are watered down by the brash, arrogant comedy timings by the young cast. However, it’s an accomplished debut from Cornish. A film that delivers a suitable mix of Edgar Wright’s ‘horrordy’ (comedy and horror, geddit?) and an often scrutinised insight into the young culture of today in Britain.