Attack the Block Review
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This has been a big year for aliens. They’ve invaded Los Angeles, they’ve gone on road trips with fanboys, and they’ve brought the Apollo missions to a screeching halt. But extraterrestrial invaders finally meet their match in director Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, a clever sci-fi thriller that takes the battle out of the hands of military commanders and wealthy suburbanites and hands it over to a bunch of street smart young punks.

Moses (John Boyega) and his friends rule The Block. They may be young, but life in their rough South London neighborhood has taught them to threaten, intimidate, and assault the weak and vulnerable to get what they want.

  
 
When a strange monkey-like creature attacks Moses one night, he and the boys chase after it and kill it, dragging it around the neighborhood like a stuffed trophy. But that’s just the first of many, and the others are much bigger—massive, black gorilla-like creatures with glowing fangs.

Armed with fireworks and baseball bats, the kids set out to defend their home from alien invasion—while, at the same time, trying to outrun both the cops and an angry gangster.

They may not have vast armies and state-of-the-art weaponry at their disposal, but the kids in Attack the Block put up a pretty impressive fight against the mysterious creatures that fall from the sky—and, in the process, they create an alien adventure that’s unlike any you’ve seen before.

Traditionally, when movies combine kids and aliens, the result is fluffy and family-friendly, pairing precocious little suburban boys and girls with cute, comical, or perhaps even mildly menacing creatures from another planet. But that’s not the case here. The kids are teenage thugs: foul-mouthed, pot-smoking criminals-in-training who are first seen mugging a defenseless young woman at knifepoint. They’re not sweet or lovable, nor are the aliens they face cute and cuddly. And this isn’t a family film; it’s a gritty urban thriller with aliens. But that’s what makes Attack the Block so appealing: it’s completely unexpected.

Throughout the film, writer/director Cornish somehow manages to maintain a nearly perfect balance of sci-fi, action, comedy, and drama. It’s filled with gripping chase scenes and bloody battles, but it’s also quite funny, with witty banter and comical characters to lighten the tone from time to time. Meanwhile, beneath all of its alien action and adventure, Attack the Block also has surprising depth. It’s so much more than just a brainless story about some kids battling aliens in the ‘hood. It also offers an interesting perspective of the kids’ lives in The Block, without justifying or glorifying their behavior. Instead, it all feels strangely natural.

Though some storylines may leave you scratching your head (particularly when it comes to Jodie Whittaker’s Sam, the gang’s mugging victim, who ends up joining them in battle), Attack the Block is a cleverly written thriller that’s full of surprises. In a year filled with alien-themed movies, this is easily one of the best.


Blu-ray Review:
Fans of Attack the Block will be absolutely thrilled with the hours of extras included on the film’s Blu-ray release. The special features menu includes three (yes, three) commentary tracks—including a really entertaining track with the charming young cast members—and loads of behind-the-scenes features.

The most extensive feature on the disc is Behind the Block, an hour-long making-of documentary, which covers the entire process, from casting street kids to filming and more. It’s a bit much for the casual viewer, but it’s still filled with interesting stuff.

Other extras include Creature Feature, a 20-minute feature focusing on the aliens—and the real men (and woman) who brought them to life. Meet the Gang is a four-minute introduction to the young characters, as explained by the lovable young actors who play them. Unfilmed Action shows storyboards for a couple of scenes that didn’t make the movie, due to budget restrictions. And That’s a Rap joins in with the young cast members for some musical on-the-set antics.

For just a little bit of post-movie fun, I recommend checking out That’s a Rap. If you have a little more time, watch the eye-opening Creature Feature. If you have all kinds of time on your hands, you might even want to check out some of the longer features—like the commentaries or Behind the Block—to spend more time with the lovable cast and their talented first-time director.

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