Saturday, 14 May 2011

Review: Attack The Block

Rating: 15 
Runtime: 88 min

It's often debated what exactly makes a good horror film. Granted this isn't horror, (before you get on your high horses) it's anything but. This indie, based on a London estate, film falls into more of a sci-fi/comedy bracket in all honesty. Whether we actually see the featured extra terrestrials often determines the effectiveness of the film. Take a classic example of The Blair Witch Project, which frankly is one of the most terrifying films I've seen, yet we never actually see anything resembling the monster that stalks the unlucky stars of the movie.

It's worth clarifying that Attack The Block is not aiming for scares on par with Blair Witch, in fact the horror elements within it are mere excuses to make audiences jump at opportunistic moments, rather than scare you silly. As mentioned, ATB falls into sci-fi/comedy genre more than anything, which seems fitting considering the background of its debutant director.

Joe Cornish gets behind the lens of his first feature film and, surprisingly, doesn't adhere to the comedic style synonymous with his Adam and Joe past. Instead, Here, Cornish takes a different comedic approach, embedding it into a typical and overused narrative, with attempts to urbanise as well as modernise. A gang of thuggish chavs (who cannot be described as anything else), lead by Moses (John Boyega), find themselves hunted by a hairy looking group of alien-dog creatures that crash to Earth one night. The invasion interrupts the gang as they mug passerby-and new neighbour-Sam (Jodie Whittaker). Cue a series of run-ins with the beasties as the group attempt to protect their block from the alien invasion. From the start the aliens are clearly depicted, thus leaving no ambiguity and reduced tension. In fact the beasties, no matter how large in size or quantity, are visually exposed throughout, which leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.

Nick Frost has a small role to play as dope dealing stoner, Ron, and to his credit plays the part well. He steals every scene he's in and contributes to the funniest parts. A steady flow of laughs balances the semi-tense chases and implies that it doesn't take itself seriously which, therefore, gives itself the label of an enjoyable, yet instantly throw away picture.

My main problem, however, is the protagonists. I use the term loosely, as traditionally they are people you admire and want to succeed. The gang of thuggish chavs, whilst they have some funny lines and entertaining action sequences, never really gain my admiration or even sympathy as, in typical genre fashion, the rabid furballs begin to pick off the cast one by one. It's difficult to relate to characters who are morally ambiguous at the best of times, but a collective of Travis Bickles they are not. Instead we are presented with rather annoying and unlikable toe rags with no sign of character development. Leader, Moses, possesses marginally redeeming features towards the climax, but in no way is he worthy enough for audiences to emphathise with, let alone pay attention to.

The progression of the story plays out well, if not clichéd. Never is the duration a bore, which is down to the simplicity and familiarity of the story and its accomplished edit. The pacing is of a decent standard with a well structured balance of chases, dialogue and slaying, which is what helps ATB through to its conclusion.

Not a bad  first attempt by Cornish, but not as accomplished as Richard Ayaode's efforts on Submarine, although it could be argued that the former was aiming for a tongue-in-cheek film that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a valid point, especially once you see the glow-in-the-dark aliens for yourselves. Far less clever, distinctive and accomplished than it thinks it is, Attack The Block is nevertheless a light-hearted and entertaining invasion flick. Unfortunately it lacks credible substance and, ultimately, that killer bite.
Sources : Internet Movie Database
Images : Google Images