“Don’t go into it expecting great characters or the best movie you have ever seen and you will have fun.”
Last night, after years of putting it off, I finally watched Attack the Block. For those who don’t know Attack the Block is a movie about an alien invasion told from the perspective of a low-level London gang that consists of children. The movie is definitely what I would call a cult classic, many people hailing how underrated it is, and unfortunately that stigma kind of ruined it for me. Don’t get me wrong I liked the movie, but after about 4 years of people raving about it it certainly didn’t live up to my expectations. In a way that is my fault and I’ll take responsibility for it, but I just wanted to get that out of the way so you know where I’m coming from.
Attack the Block is an interesting movie because it shows an event that would affect the world from the perspective of criminals. There is not another movie I can think of while writing this that did that, and it was interesting. Not only was it interesting but also really bold to introduce the main characters by having them steal from a defenseless woman as she is walking home. Unfortunately, this is where the movie lost me. Not only could I not relate to the characters, but I hated them. This made me feel disconnected from the narrative because the movie (toward the end) tries to paint them in a “you don’t understand them” light, but by that point I already dislike them. So of course by the end of the movie where we find out that the main character isn’t a bad guy, but just a kid in the wrong circumstances, instead of me feeling bad for him I saw that portion of the film as a waste of time. The people depicted in the movie were scum, and nobody could honestly say otherwise.
That being said I want to talk about my next point, the acting. Not only is this movie hailed as being an amazing, underrated piece of cinema, but now that John Boyega (who plays Moses) is in Star Wars people point at this film as a testament to how good his acting is. The problem I have with this is that his acting in Attack the Block is so forgettable. I don’t necessarily blame this on him, because going back to the characters none of them were written with any depth. The entirety of the movie is Boyega going “Imma kill these things bruv” and then fighting aliens. The only scene where he actually shows some depth is in his cousins apartment, but even then it’s not his acting ability that I remember (because he doesn’t say anything) it is the fact that the character cried a single tear. Even by then end he wasn’t a character that I was rooting for, I was just waiting for the movie to be over. The same goes for all of the actors (because all of the “gang” characters had the depth of a puddle) except for maybe Jodie Whittaker (who played Sam). Sam is the character who was mugged at the beginning of the movie but ends up “teaming up” with Moses and his friends (even though they attacked her earlier). This leads to some interesting acting from Jodie Whittaker because it is obvious that this woman is terrified of these people, but she is conflicted because they are her only chance to stay alive. She then eventually comes around when she realizes that the boys are “just misunderstood” (again this is point in the movie that I really lost respect for the film).
It’s unfortunate that the story went with the obvious “twist” of showing the criminals in a different light, because up until that point the movie was really well done. Attack the Block used a lot of clever filming tricks to immerse the audience and it really worked. At the beginning of the movie (when the aliens are starting to be introduced) they used the “Jaws” technique which means that they opted to not show the monster in full, but instead left it up to our imaginations. This was great, but that stopped halfway through. Fortunately, the creature design was so beautiful and clever that even when the “Jaws” style was abandoned it didn’t look like shit. There was also a lot of implied gore or violence used throughput the movie. This may have been because the characters were kids (and I believe to get the rating they got they couldn’t show kid violence) but it also helped the fact that showing too much in the way of gore makes things look/feel fake. Honestly the movie really had an indie film feel to it with all of the tricks used to make the movie more immersive.
The story, like I said before, fell flat at the end but that wasn’t the only part of the film that dragged. About halfway though the movie the characters seem to be just going from one location to the next running from aliens. I understand that of course they have to run from the aliens, but it just felt like a cheap ploy to not have to write any more story. At one point it felt more like I was watching a Scooby-Doo cartoon than a film that I was told over and over again was amazing. That being said, the movie did have little flashes of brilliance mixed throughout. I enjoyed all of the scenes with the really young kids who wanted to join Moses’ gang, and I also really enjoyed the subtle foreshadowing of a character limping (because he had a bat shoved in his pants) only to later become injured and have to limp for real. On top of that the movie had a lot of comedy worked in throughout, and I did enjoy myself while watching it.
Overall Attack the Block is a really enjoyable movie to watch. Don’t go into it expecting great characters or the best movie you have ever seen and you will have fun.
I give Attack the Block a B.