Starring John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker. Rated 14A.
Local kids act bad then make good in Attack the Block, a savvy slice of genre filmmaking that announces serious debut talent on the part of writer-director Joe Cornish. This Brit-TV comedy veteran also helped write Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin flick with Attack the Block producer Edgar Wright, who previously made Shaun of the Dead, and that horror-spoofing hit shares some sensibilities and cast members with this younger, faster movie.
Block centres on newcomer John Boyega as Moses, a brooding 15-year-old who cares little for those outside his Brixton “housing estate”, as the English quaintly call their vertical slums. He’s heading for a life of crime with his mixed-race, patois-spouting posse when they’re interrupted by what turns out to be an alien invasion. He kills a slimy critter, thinking it’s a big dog, thus unleashing a sustained revenge wave from the thing’s bigger, even scarier brethren—“gorilla-wolf motherfuckers”, as his pal Pest (cast standout Alex Esmail) calls them, with their coal-black fur and phosphorescent teeth.
It’s Guy Fawkes Day, a time for bonfires and Roman candles, and before the night is over Moses will have to team up for survival with, among others, a local pot grower (Nick Frost), a visiting trust-funder (Luke Treadaway), and the frightened-yet-resilient nurse (Venus’s excellent Jodie Whittaker) he mugged earlier in the evening. The film’s title could be referencing Assault on Precinct 13 or even the Korean Attack the Gas Station!, and this one also has its cross-cultural heroes holed up for survival. But Cornish doesn’t allow claustrophobia, or social preaching, to slip in for more than a few moments in its breezy parade of noisy scares and sly jokes.
The creature effects sometimes look cheap, but the movie’s atmospheric art direction, scalpel-tight editing, and slick hip-hop music are so well integrated, you have to marvel at how much fun an Attack can be.