23 August 2012

Movies: Attack the Block

Attack the Block (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1478964/

Sci Fi Comedy with light action

While a group of young teenage hoodlums mugs a nurse as she's walking home to her apartment block, a meteor-thing crashes in to a nearby car. The nurse takes the confusing opportunity to escape. As the hoods check the car for valuables something attacks and scratches Moses, the 'leader' of the small gang. The thing, which looks like a hairless grey monkey, takes off running, the kids chase it down and beat it to death. They take it to the local pot dealer because they know he watches National Geographic all the time and they figure if anyone can identify it, he can. He has no idea what it is, so they all assume it's an alien. About that time more 'meteors' start hitting all around the area. The hoods take off to kills some more 'gremlins' and find the new arrivals are much larger, furrier and have glow-in-the-dark teeth. Scarier and more savage. Of course the kids run at this point.

Stars mostly a bunch of British kids I don't recognize as the hoods. Nick Frost ("Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz", "Paul" etc) makes an appearance as Ron the pot dealer. Edgar Wright, writer/director of those same films is an executive producer on the film, but I'm unsure how influential his role was in the making of the film. This was writer/director Joe Cornish's first feature film.
The film's premise is sort of like if "Signs" happened in the rough neighborhood of South London's government housing blocks, to paraphrase the director.
Tell you what, for a film starred by and written/directed by mostly unknowns they did quite good. The production looked a lot more mature than I'd expect out of first-timers. Most of the special effects were practical with very little CGI, which added to the realism of the scenes. The crew did an amazing job with the creature effects. Didn't look B-movie at all.

Sure, the hoodlums are not very likable at first, but there is some character growth as the film progresses. So just as nurse Sam's heart softens toward the kids through to the end of the film the viewer is inclined to start rooting for the hoods as well. 

Overall the story is amazingly tight and coherent, especially for a first-timer film. Things happen for a reason and those reasons are doled out as the story progresses. No obvious hanging threads nor wasted scenes. The cast even provides a plausible explanation as to why this alien invasion seems to be concentrated in a South London apartment block.
Even though it got right in to the story early on it did seem to be on the edge of dragging a little up front, but it really gets going during the second invasion and barrels to the finish. So I'm thinking that early on dragging feeling is a bit unavoidable as everything that happens during the opening act pays off later in the film.

I suppose it sort of fits in the same genre of amusing comedy homage films as "Shaun of the Dead" did for zombie flicks, "Hot Fuzz" did for buddy cop films and "Paul" did for close encounters films, except it isn't an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film. But it stands in good company.

So, if you're in the market for an amusing alien invasion flick this one should be worth fitting that bill.

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