Joe Cornish, one half of the popular BBC6 radio show, The Adam And Joe Show, could be an unlikely saviour of the British film industry with his debut film, Attack The Block, an electrifying and blissfully entertaining hybrid of sci-fi, comedy and horror.
The British film industry has been desperately looking for something or someone to shake up the system. Other than the Harry Potter franchise, which is coming to an end in a matter of weeks, there have been only a few films and directors who have really put our country on the cultural map. Danny Boyle is one of them, however, his last two films have been shot outside Britain and therefore haven’t had the impact on the UK film industry one would have wished for. Mike Leigh is another, however, despite always being recognised as one of the best directors from this side of the water, his films make as much money at the box office as a homeless busker would singing Jedward songs on a broken one string guitar. In other words, fuck all.
However, within the last six months, The King’s Speech has walked away with the Oscar for Best Picture and Submarine has rightly been a nationwide success for Richard Ayoade. Now, yet another name can be added to the list of those who could save the UK film industry from crumbling apart: Joe Cornish and his ludicrously entertaining hybrid of science fiction, horror and comedy Attack The Block.
The film tells the story of a gang of teenagers who have to defend their block during an alien invasion. If it sounds stupid, that’s because it is, having more in common with a B-movie science fiction flick from the 1950s or 60s like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers than it does District 9 or Monsters. However, while it is all very silly, it’s the most fun that I have had in a cinema screen for as long as I can remember.
It has just about everything that someone walking into the cinema on a Saturday night could ever hope for. From the first ten minutes, the action is underway as the kids ‘tool up’ with fireworks, knives and bats and pit themselves against the mysterious monsters from outer-space. All the while, the dialogue between the characters is hilarious as British gang slang and more pop culture references than you could shake your stick at are combined with some genuinely clever humour and subsequently thrown at you so fast and so hard that you won’t be able to catch them all first time around. Plus, it even has a sprinkle of the slasher and horror genre in there with some jump-out-of-your-seat scares and grizzly, gory demises.
Even if you’re looking for something a little more than just a great piece of escapism, Joe Cornish delivers on that front too with a fascinating character drama thrown into the mix. At first, after all, the boys of the block are very unlikeable as we witness them in the opening scenes rob a random woman on the way home to her flat after a long day of work and proceed in going on a violent rampage through the streets after what they initially think is just an animal. However, as the invasion ramps up, the boys, led by Moses, decide to step up and protect their home from the attacks. It’s here that you really start to sympathise with them as their loyalty, brotherhood and pride comes to the foreground. An especially poignant moment comes when they realise the aforementioned woman lives in their block and they save her life from an attacking alien.
Cornish even manages to touch on some deeper subtext in Attack The Block in one surprisingly powerful scene in which Moses delivers a monologue about how drugs were sent into the ghetto to kill black people, then guns were sent into the ghetto to speed it up and asks whether the aliens were just another tool to rid the minority from London. It’s here that you realise these kids aren’t thugs out of a conscious decision, but because society has conditioned them into this through constantly beating them down. During an era in which Government cuts are hitting the poorest areas hardest, this message of how poverty and lack of opportunity breads violence is somewhat moving.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone walking out of Attack The Block and not enjoying it. For 80 minutes, it’s a non-stop rollercoaster ride of action, tension, humour, horror and spectacle that will literally leave your jaw aching from all the smiling and laughing and leave your heart racing at the same time as well.