Posted by: greercn | May 13, 2011

Attack The Block

I love monster movies and I particularly enjoy the phenomenon described by Frank Zappa as “cheapness” or “cheepnis”, where tinny made-by-hand creature are wheeled out from the back of the set. If I can spot the technician pushing the creature out into the frame, I am joyful. The Japanese “Godzilla” movies remain perfect.

“Attack The Block” combines sly social commentary with creatures from outer space who go after the residents of a south (pronounced “Sarf”) London tower block, for reasons that are explained most satisfactorily by the end of its 88 minutes. It reminds you of Japanese monster movies, in keeping a clever low-budget feel and preserving an intimate link with the viewer.

After seeing the trailer, I put this movie into the “not for me, for teenage boys” category. Boy, was I wrong. The movie whizzes by and is full of really original ideas on the old alien invasion theme. Setting it in the home of kitchen sink drama – totally awful high rise housing designed and built by bureaucrats to cram in the poor –  is pure genius.

Yes, there is too much “yo ‘dis ma ‘hood” nonsense in the script. But it works, in the context. The plot?

Five guys (homies in ma ‘hood) mug a kind young woman. We know she is nice because of how she speaks to her parents, on her phone, just seconds before it is stolen from her.

Out of the sky comes a big monkey-like creature that totals a yuppie car. More creatures land. Mayhem results and our gang of young muggers is on the run, through the endless corridors and lifts (elevators) of the block.

Cue masses of gags about running out of phone credit,  having one text left, being street-wise, growing up too young and poverty of expectations. This movie packs quite a powerful philosophical punch in its script.

Director Joe Cornish has a cult following – he’s involved with the “Hot Fuzz” team – and I am interested in seeing what he does next. He has a deft hand in social commentary without boredom.

Just for a change, there are strong women here. Jodie Whittaker is utterly magical as the mugged nurse who become essential to the survival of the rough boys she ends up helping. All the women are terrific and strong.

John Boyega’s “Moses” has style and dignity but Nick Frost and Luke Treadaway play distinctive characters too.

This is a refreshing and different take on the monster movie. See it while you can. the Stratford Picturehouse audience loved every minute and laughed at each of the glorious gags. Hey, so did I.



  1. This one finally opened in Montréal this past Friday (26 August 2011) and we went to see it tonight. Loved it! I think if I hadn’t recently been watching several British TV series I might have missed some of the slang (and probably still did anyway), and that will probably keep it from doing well in North America (just no tolerance for difference).

    I truly enjoyed the aspect of the kids trying to be bigger and tougher than they actually are — echoed with the younger pair — and stepping up to do what many adults wouldn’t or couldn’t do, with the same echo in the younger pair.

    We killed ourselves laughing throughout and I had a number of “clutch pearls” moments, too.

    • I saw it again and liked it a lot more on the second viewing. I still don’t like the glorifying of young criminal behaviour, but I accept it is very funny.

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