Saturday, February 11, 2012

Movie review: Attack the Block

Ooh, bruv, Attack the Block's amazin' movie, innit?  Really loved it, didn't I?  In the land of low budget, under the radar alien invasion movies, this one ranks right up there with District 9.  In other words, good stuff.

A gang of teenage ruffians patrol the streets around their council estate flats (the "block") in south London, causing trouble, mugging people.  One night, while all of London is celebrating something with fireworks, they pick on a pretty young nurse as she's on her way home (to her flat in the block, although they don't recognize her), steal her money, knock her to the ground.  Before too much damage can be done, however, something falls out of the sky: a toothy little alien.  The young gang kills it and totes it off to the smartest guy they know - the local pot dealer, played with excellent humor by Nick Frost - to see if he can identify it.  While they're talking with him, more aliens plummet to earth and the boys decide that they're up for more mayhem.  They collect weapons and go out to do battle.

Trouble is, this second round of aliens is not like the first.  These are big, black, furry monsters, sort of a cross between a gorilla and a wolf, with many rows of huge, fluorescent teeth.  The boys retreat to the block, which soon becomes besieged.  They meet up with the nurse - who is at first not inclined to help treat their injuries in light of how they first met - but soon the ragtag group is waging war in earnest.  The block is their home and they are not going to give it up without a fight.

I don't even know where to start with how much I liked this movie.  It's only 87 minutes long (which, if he liked sci-fi movies, would have been perfect for Mr. Mouse) and never lets up the headlong pace.  The gang of boys is clearly developed into individual characters: the scene where they run off to collect weapons from their various apartments gives a nice glimpse into who they are.  Their leader, Moses, played by total newcomer John Boyega, is terse and threatening at first, but evolves into a real hero, trying to keep his crew alive.  The action is strong, bloody (but not too much so) and realistic (for a movie about aliens).  It's scary in spots and quite funny in others, diffusing the tension nicely before it ramps back up.  The aliens are simply wonderful - practical effects, not CGI.  The way they move (kudos to the stunt guys inside the suits) is so natural looking, fluid and strong.

There are English subtitles available on the DVD - even though everyone in the movie speaks the Queen's English, it is rife with imprenetrable British slang - but I ended up not using them.  Sure, I missed some dialogue, but you don't need to understand every word to follow what's going on: aliens invade, kids fight back.  It's not complicated but it's a ton of fun and really well done.  I liked it so well that I think I'm going to watch it again before I send the DVD back - this is actually a movie I wouldn't mind owning.  See it soon if you haven't yet.

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