Thursday, February 23, 2012

Attack the Block

Written and directed by Joe Cornish, Attack the Block is the story about street gang whose life of crime is shattered when aliens attack their South London block forcing them and residents to fight back. The film is a mixture of sci-fi, comedy, and action as it carries a simple plot while creating lots of suspense and drama that occurs as the stakes are raised in this battle between humans and aliens. Starring Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, and Nick Frost. Attack the Block is a brilliant and fun film from Joe Cornish.

It’s Bonfire Night in South London as a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is coming home from work as she is then mugged by a young local gang. During the mugging, something falls from the sky and lands on a car as the gang try to figure out what’s going on. Realizing that it was an alien, the boys led by Moses (John Boyega) attack and kill the alien as they reveal it to local drug dealer Ron (Nick Frost) for advice on how to profit from it. This gets the attention of Ron’s boss in Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) who makes Moses into a top dealer. Just as Moses is about to do some sales with his friends Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), and Biggz (Simon Howard), more objects fall from the sky as the boys realize that aliens are arriving to attack.

Just as they were trying to attack aliens, Moses is arrested for his assault on Sam who is there to identify until they’re attacked by aliens as Sam, Moses, and the gang try to fight them out. With Hi-Hatz believed that Moses is trying to take over his block after an accident, things become complicated forcing Sam to team up with Moses and the gang to fight off the aliens. Even as they try to hide in various apartments including Ron’s where his weed customer Brewis (Luke Treadway) believes why the aliens are attacking. With the stakes becoming much higher and more aliens coming, Moses makes a move that will ensure the lives of those he had just cared for will be saved.

The film’s premise is simple which is about a youth gang and a few of its neighbors fighting off attacking some aliens in their South London block in one particular night that would change everyone. That’s pretty much it though its simple plot doesn’t exactly suggest in what the film is about and does. There’s a whole lot more to it as writer/director Joe Cornish creates a film that is about survival as well as growing up where it revolves around this youth gang who would team up with this young nurse whom they mugged early in the film.

Once the aliens start attacking and they’re in danger along with this young woman. The boys do start to grow up and realize there is more at stake than just themselves and their desire for a life of crime. Though the character of Sam is reluctant at first to help them after what she’s been through. She ends up helping them realizing the danger that is around them as they eventually become friends while they also evade a ruthless, paranoid drug dealer. Throughout the film, there’s lot of very stylized yet humorous dialogue that revolves around their situation while the script does allow the characters to take a breather in between the action as they all try to figure out how to beat these aliens.

Cornish’s direction is very engaging in the way he captures a lot of the film’s action and suspense scenes while putting in a bit of humor and gore into the mix. Yet, Cornish creates a film where it does more than what its premise suggests by making it about these five young boys and a nurse as they fight off these aliens as he’s always having the camera on these characters as some would look out to see what is happening. These perspective shots as well as amazing action sequences really create an element of suspense over what might happen as it does go into traditional rhythms as well as unconventional ones. The humor is a bit restrained as it allows the characters to interact or deal with what is happening as Cornish knows how to use it right. The overall work is truly a joy to watch as Joe Cornish creates a film that does more than entertain in its simple human vs. alien premise.

Cinematographer Tom Townend does a superb job in creating some wonderful nighttime exterior shots filled with yellow and blue lights to help set the mood while utilizing more stylish array of lights for many of the film‘s interior settings. Editor Jonathan Amos does an excellent job with the editing in creating stylish and rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s action and suspense scenes while not going into speedy cuts to help maintain the element of suspense that occurs in the film. Production designer Marcus Rowland, along with set decorator Dick Lunn and art director Andrea Coathupe, does a nice job with the set pieces created such as Ron’s weed room as well as the different apartments the character hide and live in.

Costume designer Rosa Dias does a terrific job with the costumes created for the film such as the street gear Moses and his gang wear to the more casual look of Sam. Visual effects supervisor Ged Wright does a brilliant job with the visual effects created for some of the creatures as they roam onto the building while having a bit of a realistic look to them as their teeth light up. Creature effects designer Mike Elizalde does a fantastic job with the design of the creatures from its small female counterpart early in the film to the hordes of big male creatures that look like a mixture of furry animals with huge teeth. Sound designer Jeremy Price and sound editor Julian Slater do tremendous work with the film’s sound work from the way the aliens snarl to the atmosphere that occurs during the fight with the aliens.

The music by Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Button of the British electronic duo Basement Jaxx is a major highlight of the film for the mixture of hip-hop, electronic music, and dub reggae that occurs throughout the film. With additional score pieces by Steven Price who brings a few orchestral flairs to the Basement Jaxx score. The film’s music soundtrack is truly phenomenal as the hip-hop and electronic pieces play up to the film’s energy and suspense as well as being fun to listen to.

The casting by Nina Gold is remarkable for the ensemble that is created for the film as it includesTerry Notary, Karl Bauman, and Arti Shah do some of the performance capture for the aliens in the film. Other notable small roles include Danielle Vitalis and Paige Meade as two neighbors that know Moses as well as Michael Ajao and Sammy Williams as two adolescent wannabe-gangsters who both want to be part of Moses’ gang. Jumayn Hunter is really good as the vicious and paranoid gangster Hi-Hatz while Nick Frost is funny in a very low-key role as the friendlier drug dealer Ron. Luke Treadaway is also funny as Ron’s stoned customer Brewis who has a great knowledge on zoology.

In the roles of the young gangsters, Simon Howard is excellent as the more fearful yet athletic Biggz while Leeon Jones is wonderful as the smart yet cunning Jerome. Franz Drameh is terrific as the more aggressive Dennis while Alex Esmail is very funny as the resourceful Pest. Jodie Whittaker is great as the nurse Sam who becomes part of the fight against aliens as she is a woman just trying to live her life while realizing that the boys who mugged her aren’t so bad. Finally, there’s John Boyega in an outstanding performance as the young gang leader Moses who becomes more aware of the consequences he takes while trying to find a way to do good and fight off the aliens.

Attack the Block is a thrilling yet very exciting sci-fi action-adventure film from Joe Cornish. Featuring an amazing ensemble cast, top-notch soundtrack, and spectacular technical work, it’s a film that does more than its humans vs. aliens premise suggest. Notably as it adds a wonderful sense of humor while not going too far in making it overly-childish and gory. In the end, Attack the Block is a marvelous film from Joe Cornish.

© thevoid99 2012


Chip Lary said...

I was entertained by this film, but I think you liked it more than I did. Other reviews have also liked it quite a bit, so I am probably in the minority on this.

My biggest complaint is that I found most of the kids annoying, especially the white wannabe rasta.

On the other hand, I think the lead in the film has a young Denzel Washington thing going on.

thevoid99 said...

I agree about John Boyega. Dude looks like he could be a star. He's got the look and charisma. I think we'll be seeing more of him. He's awesome.

Castor said...

Yea I hope John Boyega is going to be able to build up on this. He definitely was the most charismatic of the bunch despite having a pretty understated role/acting style.

thevoid99 said...

@Castor-He was the character that I ended up rooting for despite the fact that he is a criminal. Yet, he allowed his character to redeem himself and be a badass. I'm eager to see what Boyega does next.