VOD film review: Attack the Block
Ivan Radford | On 26, Apr 2013
Director: Joe Cornish
Cast: John Boyega, Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Alex Esmail
Watch Attack the Block online in the UK: All 4 / Netflix UK / BritBox / Sky Cinema / NOW / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Google Play
There’s nowt like an old building with a dodgy elevator to give you the willies. And doesn’t Joe Cornish know it. His directorial debut sees an alien invasion land upon a South London tower block, challenging the local gang for their home turf.
“That’s an alien, bruv, believe it!” declares one of the youths after they’ve had a close encounter with ET. But rather than focus on the fact that our heroes could be seen as villains in another story, Attack the Block jumps straight over that hurdle and gets on with its main goal: teaming up with them to kill aliens.
The result is a sci-fi thriller with a good sense of pacing. We follow lonely nurse Sam (Whittaker) home, just as she gets mugged by The Block’s band of teens. Then the script switches tracks, putting us on the same side as the kids without making a fuss. It’s a redemption tale of sorts, or a correction to society’s perception of these kids, but there’s no time to spend moralising. Not when there are aliens on the loose.
It falls to Moses (Boyega) to lead the defence of The Block. A commanding presence, Boyega’s uneasy bond with Whittaker’s nurse keeps things nicely tense; the contrast between the cast members is lightly played, from Luke Treadaway’s middle-class stoner to Nick Frost’s middle-aged drug dealer.
You could take issue with the caricatured use of slang, but Cornish’s characters don’t feel forced. They’re rooted in standard genre types, but they all have glimpses of backstory, from concerned grandmas and sisters to sudden displays of nerves – “I wanna go home, lock the doors and play FIFA!” cries one, cowering underneath his hood.
Is it intended to be funny? Perhaps, but there aren’t many laughs to be had. That’s not really a problem, though. If anything, it’s credit to the teen actors that they stand up as more than one-note jokes.
Most importantly, the sci-fi part of the setup is exceptionally well done. Using the flat’s timed light switches to spine-tingling effect, Cornish understands his location. The kids leap off railings, they climb up balconies, one of them hides in a wheelie bin; he brings an intimidating atmosphere to The Block using eerie blue lighting and a thumping Basement Jaxx soundtrack.
Then there are the monsters. Jet black fluffballs with blue-green teeth, they scream of low-budget brilliance. Blending into the shadows with their jaws glowing bright, the aliens are a stunning piece of creature design, completely at odds with their grimy surroundings.
And that’s why Attack the Block is a success. You may not find much humour in our gaggle of anti-heroEd, but this sci-fi thriller has lots of sci-fi and lots of thrills. And that’s precisely what a good monster movie needs. On a simple level of pure alien threat, Attack the Block’s beasties are bang on.
Attack the Block is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on BritBox, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. It is also available on All 4 until 5th December 2021.