' Cinema Romantico: Attack the Block

Monday, August 15, 2011

Attack the Block

The summer of 2011 features two takes on the theme of Kids vs. Aliens. The American version, of course, was J.J. Abrams' supremely Spielbergian "Super 8" in which our child heroes were wholesome Midwesterners trying to film a movie set against the backdrop of an alien run amok who, really, was just sorta misunderstood. The British version is Joe Cornish's "Attack the Block", and it's, uh, a tad different.


One firework-laden evening in London, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a young nurse with a very real, very fetching nose, is walking home after her shift. Five hooded, masked, partially armed teenage thugs stop her, rob her of her phone and her cash, and go so far as to knock her down. But a strange explosion from the sky allows her to escape. It seems aliens have come to this particular block in London, to attack the block, so to speak, and now our protagonist must fend them off.

Okay, so clearly Sam is our protagonist because there is no way five violent thugs who just assaulted a woman, for God's sake, could possibly be our protagonists. Wait, what? They are our protagonists? How does that work then? I mean, can you imagine pitching that opening to an American studio? "But how can we root for five thugs?" they'd ask. "Well," you'd respond," the same way people like me used to root for the Pistons' Bad Boys Teams." And then they'd politely ask you to leave.

But don't presume this means Sam gets moved out of the picture. She doesn't. She eventually will team up with our quintet of teenage rebels, led by the aptly named Moses (John Boyega, oozing charisma), who off one of these pesky aliens in the beginning which they promptly take for safekeeping to the safest place on the block, the weed room of a couple ne'er do well drug dealers (Nick Frost & Jumayn Hunter). Little do they know, though, that the aliens, sort of like wolverines as re-imagined by H.R. Giger, will keep coming in droves. The kids will fight back. Sam will fight back. They will fight back together.


There is very little backstory going on in "Attack the Block." It establishes the premise and then goes and never really stops until the closing credits roll. And what it does most cleverly of all, beyond any and all of its varying action sequences and its sort of grand, beautiful climax in which Moses outraces who-knows-how-many alien wolverines with this operatic electronic music accompanying his run on the soundtrack, is gently bring the audience around to caring for these kids, much like Sam will eventually reach that same conclusion. It's bold to trust your audience to have that sort of patience and I commend Cornish for doing so.

After all, when those evil aliens finally show up, as so many movies keep promising, there's a strong chance you won't get to pick and choose who's gonna be in the foxhole with you. Nut up and get along. Or else.

2 comments:

Duke said...

Hopefully the film gets around to my area. I was thinking about seeing the picture when I was in Chicago - but decided to see "The Guard" instead.

Nick Prigge said...

I think that was a good choice. It comes down to which type of movie you prefer - that quirky, character driven stuff or a zombie movie. I enjoyed both of them but I preferred "The Guard."