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Attack the Block - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Attack the Block
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B-

Attack the Block seems to want to be the kind of hip indie movie that gains a cult following. It makes an admirable effort but doesn't quite make it. Unfortunately for the people who made it, no one's going to be sitting around at a college party quoting lines from this movie ten years from now.

For the 88 minutes it takes to watch it, though, it's kind of fun. Unlike whatever effect it could possibly have in the filmmakers' native Britain, in the U.S. the most fun thing about is its setting: a poor and crime-ridden section of South London, which has many recognizable trappings but a fairly alien culture to Americans.

Most specifically, the action takes place in a run-down high-rise apartment building, and the streets immediately surrounding it. The film opens with a young woman (Jodie Whittaker) walking home from a late shift, and getting mugged by a group of teenagers she doesn't realize live in her own building. It's in the midst of this very mugging that the very first meteor-like object falls from the sky, smashing into a car nearby. As the evening wears on, and more of these meteors fall to the Earth, the woman finds herself forced to stick with and worth with this group of teenagers for protection.

It's an intriguing setup for the characters which is never very much fleshed out, but then perhaps there is no need when Attack the Block is at its core an alien-invasion movie. And, ultimately, a pretty rote one -- its novelty lies squarely in the setting.

One might wonder, in fact, why these aliens are falling solely in this South London neighborhood, and evidently nowhere else in the world. The script, by Joe Cornish (who also directed), actually comes up with a surprisingly clever way to explain this, couched in theories related to human knowledge of terrestrial wild animal behaviors. This is, in fact, why the creatures focus their attentions on this one high-rise apartment building, which conveniently helps keep the film's budget as low as it clearly is.

Speaking of the low budget, let's talk for a moment about creature design. To a large degree, Cornish keeps the creatures obscured in shadow, or in rapid-fire editing during attacks. Either way, it heightens the fear factor and is always an effective way to keep the audience at least a little scared. On the other hand, there are plenty of scenes where the creatures are quite clearly seen in their entirety, and frankly they come close to having a 1968 Planet of the Apes quality -- indeed, they look like nothing more than grown people in wolf-ape suits, running on all fours. (They do seem to have longer front limbs than people walking on all fours, though; maybe they use arm-stilts?) And with electric-glowing blue rows of razor teeth. Bottom line, the more these creatures can be seen, the dumber Attack the Block looks.

But, honestly, this is more about the kids who live in "the Block" than it is about the creatures, and their inventive ways of defending themselves against the aliens. A bit -- and frankly not quite enough -- of comic relief is provided by the dope dealer on floor 19 (Nick Frost) and his "highly reliable" yet pointedly privileged customer (Luke Treadaway). These two guys provide some of the best one-liners and gags, which really should have been better peppered throughout the story.

To a degree, Attack the Block seems a tad self-conscious about what it has to say, and needlessly so. It needed only to be an amusing, low-budget alien horror comedy. But it nearly flies off the rails at the very end, confusing the audience a bit as to whether or not it's trying to make "A Statement" about the relationship between the police and poor people. What audience for a movie like this is going to come asking for politics or blatant social commentary?

That aside, Attack the Block does not quite meet its goals, but it's entertaining enough.

(L-R) John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker and Luke Treadaway defend their low-income South London building in 'Attack the Block'.

Overall: B
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