Seeing that it was made by the producers of Shaun of the Dead and involved the ‘acting talents’ of Nick Frost, I presumed that newly released film Attack on the Block would be pretty much what tagline said it would be – Shaun of the Dead with Aliens.
I liked Shaun of the Dead (although I didn’t particularly care for some of the Frost/Pegg followup films like Hot Fuzz) and the trailer for it looked funny, so I went along.
So how does it compare?
What’s it About?
Seeing as this film only just came out, the chances are you haven’t seen it, so as per some of the my other movie reviews, I’ll be brief.
Set on Bonfire Night, the film starts with a nurse walking home at the end of her shift where she is mugged by a gang of inner-city youth thugs. As they are about to do her physical harm, they are interrupted by a meteor crashing into a car
parked nearby, and when they go to investigate they discover than a small alien was part of the meteor. It attacks the leader of the gang – Moses – before scurrying off.
They eventually catch up with it, and – full of insecurity based bravado like these kids usually are – kill it for sport. Triumphantly they take it back to their council estate (or ‘The Block’) where they keep it in the secure ‘Weed Room’ at the top of the building.
What they don’t realise though is that dozens more meteorites have fallen to the earth under the cloak of all the fireworks going off, and the aliens in these ones are far bigger, far more dangerous and are coming after them specifically.
Why are they after them? Can they be stopped? Will they all survive? You’ll have to watch it yourself.
As I said above, the trailer for this film made me think it would be very much played for laughs like Shaun of the Dead was. While SotD had its mildly gruesome moments, it was hardly an exercise in grossing out the audience like other Zombie films.
This film is different. Yes, there are comical moments (usually surrounding the exploits of the two pre-teen kids who want to be part of the gang) and a lot of sharp and insightful dialogue, but I wouldn’t say it’s played for comic effect whatsoever.
No, the main thing that stands out about this film is the brilliant use of suspense. For anyone who has read my Scream review, I criticised it for a lack of that very thing. There was nothing to make you jump and nothing that drew the viewer in. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Attack on the Block was the complete opposite, and it was achieved with clever direction. The director left just enough time to make you think ‘Oh, something’s about to happen’ and then enjoy the moment before springing the surprise.
The suspense is also helped by the use of the aliens in the film, as well as their ultra-black costumes. We very rarely get to see them until near the end. Whenever they pounce, the use of lighting in the film means that all you see are their glowing teeth. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but it reminds me of Predator in that respect. Or The Descent.
That’s how you make a science fiction film/show effectively. The characters don’t really see the monsters and neither do we, so we share in their surprise when they pounce. The aliens are an unknown to the characters and therefore that uncertainty is felt by the viewer. It was extremely effective and very enjoyable in that regard.
But it’s not just about how well done the aliens are; the special affects in general are of a high standard. Whenever an alien manages to kill someone, it’s done in a very gruesome way. I was surprised to find when I left that this film was actually a 15, and that speaks volumes as to how desensitised we are as a society to this sort of thing. When I was growing up, it would have been an 18 without question.
But there has to be more to the film than just suspense, special effects and a few laughs.
Thankfully, there is.
The characterisation is spot on. With the possible exception of Nick Frost (surprise surprise) each of the main cast has depth to their character and a reason for being in the film. You can understand their motivations (even if you don’t agree with them) and they all develop well.
The plot makes sense too, which is crucial. At one point I was asking myself ‘Why are the aliens seemingly just going after these guys and not anyone else’, and it’s explained logically and reasonably. I was actually quite impressed with the reason they came up with.
And there’s also a nice moral to the story, as Moses realises there are consequences to his actions, and the gang as a whole realise that perhaps mugging people is not the way to go about things, considering they end up befriending and seeking refuge with the nurse who they mugged at the start of the film – Sam (Jodie Whittaker).
Overall, the acting is of a good standard, but that didn’t surprise me considering its a Film4 production funded by the National Lottery. Maybe I’m being quite broad in my assessment, but those films all tend to be good. Same with BBC Films. If they make it onto the cinema and they are done by either of those companies, expect a good film.
And that’s what we get – a good film. At 89 minutes long it flows well from scene to scene, everything makes sense within the confines of the story and it keeps the viewer captivated throughout.
Should You Go To Attack on the Block?
So far as the cinema this year I’ve seen 10 films and with one exception (I’m looking at you 127 Hours), I’ve enjoyed them all. With a film like the Adjustment Bureau, I went in with low expectations and came away from it very pleasantly surprised. With True Grit, I enjoyed it, but got what I expected. With Thor, I enjoyed it but in all honesty was expecting better.
With Attack on the Block, I went in expecting to enjoy a Shaun of the Dead style black comedy, but instead I got an extremely effective, suspense filled science fiction film in the classic ‘Base Under Siege’ style. And I loved it.
It’s a highly enjoyable film and it’s worth seeing.