Beginning in December 2005 with my history of apes in film essay “Gorilla of Your Dreams” (the substantially update and revised version appears in The Apes of Wrath), I regularly contributed to Moving Pictures Magazine. First in the print incarnation and then for primarily the website. I contributed reviews and essays for the last three years of the publications existence. Following the June 2011 demise of both the print and website editions, all of the digital work for MPM disappeared into the ether. In the coming months (years?), I plan on reposting many of my reviews and articles.
With John Boyega getting his “big break” in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look back at his first starring role.
Attack the Block
Reviewed by Rick Klaw
Directed and written by Joe Cornish
Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, and Nick Frost
Following in the successful footsteps of recent low budget science fiction films District 9, Moon, and Monsters, writer/director Joe Cornish’s freshman outing Attack the Block, produced for an estimated £9 million (roughly $14 million), delivers a superior diversion, grounded in a quality script and innovate direction.
After mugging young nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a group of South London teens witness a small meteor crash into a nearby car. While searching the vehicle for valuables, an alien, a three foot high being that looks like a hideous skinless baby, bites gang leader Moses (John Boyega) and runs away. The boys give chase, eventually catching and killing it. Wielding their trophy, the thugs return to their block, an urban apartment building for the poor similar to the America projects. Soon terrifying creatures—a cross between a large dog and a small bear with pitch black fur, no eyes, and glowing white teeth—hunt the scared young men. In desperation, they eventually turn to the savvy Sam to help keep their wits and sanity.
Masterfully manipulating his meager budget, Cornish effectively employs actors in suits, rather than the now-standard and more costly digital portrayal, for his scary monsters and uses his native South London as the gritty backdrop. Employing age-appropriate actors, fronted by the mesmerizing newcomer Boyega, the motivations and emotions of the clever and impetus group lend an air of realism to an otherwise absurd concept. The wholesome Whittaker supplies a much needed counter to the testosterone-infused scenes as the mother/sister/object of desire. The popular Nick Frost (Paul) adequately supplies his nearly stereotypical comic relief role as the bumbling stoner.
The intelligent story offers no explanation for the origin of the aliens nor does it ever waiver from the ground level urban perspective. The fun and creative action sequences provide more excitement than the vast majority of big budget productions.
An exciting, often humorous and unique 88 minutes, Attack the Block, much like the movies mentioned above, heralds a major new imaginative filmmaker. See it now before Hollywood spits out the inevitable crappy remake.