Year: 2011
Director: Joe Cornish
Writers: Joe Cornish
Region of Origin: UK/France
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: n/a
35mm, Color, 82 mins

Synopsis: A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion. (Source)

( I’m reposting this from when I saw it at the L.A. Film Festival, because it’s officially out now, so go do yourself a favor and go see probably the best movie to come out this year so far!) So far, this is absolutely the one must-see movie of the year. After hearing nothing but amazing things about it, I finally got to catch it at LAFF on Wednesday and absolutely loved every second of it. It might be the most well-made film of the year from top to bottom: cinematography, music, story, direction, and most important of all — characters, which are done with so much aplomb and wit that you’ll never know what hit you.

If you know nothing about it, the movie’s about a group of inner-city hooligans in South London that are basically forced to save the world when a mysterious alien invasion threatens their tower block. You’ll be happy to know that yes, it does evoke classic ’80s films like Gremlins, Assault on Precinct 13, Warriors, E.T., Goonies, etc., but creates its own spin, never feeling like a dated carbon-copy mash-up. Even though inevitable comparisons to Super 8 will crop up (there was a joke of it being called Super 8 Mile), Attack the Block is more focused on being a leaner, unabashedly fun movie, while still maintaining all of the necessary nostalgia and sincerity of the former, but with a much tighter story that earns its emotion and heart.

The first amazing thing about the movie is that the kids here all feel real. The cast is top-notch, even though for most of them it’s their first movie! Everything you missed from the ’80s kid pictures are here: there are multiple conversations happening at the same time (a la Spielberg), and the kids get excited about the little things, with one of them (despite acting tough) still kissing his mom before he leaves his flat. Since the movie is non-stop action, it’s humane things such as seeing their home lives that really make you understand where everyone in the diverse group is coming from. However, I want to stress that even though you’ll get nostalgia from this movie, it doesn’t rely on the cheap, unearned kind. It really captures it through the characters interactions and some well thought-out character arcs.

To back up all the child actors’ brilliant performances, there is a really sharp multi-layered script that goes beyond just fighting monsters in the inner-city. The movie’s main theme is really about where life takes you, and how everything you do has a consequence. It’s your choice to do with that as you will. The kids are involved with some pretty dark criminal activities, but the movie never really glorifies them, instead they’re used to show them as victims of circumstance, giving us a contrast between settling with what comes to you or working towards something better. The aliens are also interchangeable with whatever problems might arise in these types of neighborhoods, posing the question as to what things might be like when warring parties acknowledge the fact that things might be different if they put aside their differences to work towards a common ground.

The direction also completely blew me away. As it turns out, first-time feature director Joe Cornish has been an accomplished writer for some time now, and he directs the material with a tight, organic, and singular vision. Again, this is the kind of movie where the action progresses story and character (another rarity these days). The action is also greatly varied and filmed brilliantly, including an incredible scene taking place in a smoky hallway, with great some bike/foot chases as well. I also loved the relentless pacing and kinetic-energy that literally begins right at the start and never lets up.

Since we know the movie is about aliens, I want to address them for a sec. We really don’t get too many creature features any more, and this movie makes up for that in spades. First off, I love that they show them almost right-away, and they’re pretty cool looking, so they don’t have to hide them. They’re also mostly practical (non-CGI), so they look amazing in all the fight scenes.

The last thing I want to gush over is the pitch-perfect soundtrack from Basement Jaxx and Steven Price, both scoring a film for their first time. As if the movie weren’t already moving at break-neck speed, their soundtrack takes it to the next level, both evoking the movie’s genre-bending vibes through sound and knowing when to slow it up to deliver some pretty iconic, epic-sounding string cues.

Attack the Block is the rare movie that knows what it wants, and carries it out to pretty much perfection. It actually feels inspired (not a hollow skeleton pandering to demographics), and works to find the things inherently relatable to us all, earning its heart and emotion through some genuine performances. But, wait did I mention it’s hilarious? And fun? And thrilling? And genuine? Believe bruv.

Crome Rating: 4.5/5 (Wow I’m super excited about this movie right now aren’t I?)

SG