Film Review: Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block is a 2011 film by director Joe Cornish, introduced at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and produced by the folks that brought us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. That should say a lot right there.

Humor, check.

Action, check.

Familiar faces (*ahem* Nick Frost *ahem*), check.

However, Attack the Block separates itself from its predecessors by focusing more on the action and characters than the ridiculousness seen in the likes of Hot Fuzz. Don’t get me wrong. I thought Hot Fuzz was hi-lar-ious. But Cornish’s film contains far less slapstick and dirty humor and much more connection to the characters - especially the lead, Moses (newcomer John Boyega). We’ll talk more on my take of the character naming in a bit. For now, let me give you a synopsis:

Attack the Block is an action/adventure/sci-fi/suspense film about an attack on a block. The end.

No, not really.


The film is nonstop action from five minutes in until two minutes before the credits roll and seems to take place in real time. The approximate hour and a half the movie runs seems to be pretty accurate as to how long the action lasts. The premise is that a (lower income) south London block is attacked by aliens and a gang of teenage boys band together to take them out. The aliens resemble werewolves, only with bluish glow-in-the-dark teeth and hair so black all you see are spikey blobs the entire movie. I’m pretty sure you can guess how it ends - some die, some live, but most importantly the unlikable becomes liked and justice prevails.

Asses are kicked.

While watching Attack the Block, two other movies immediately came to mind - The Goonies and Hook. If you can picture the group of adolescents in each of these movies, then you can imagine the group of boys in Attack the Block. The camaraderie and adventure are one and the same between the movies, but I guess you can’t really alter preteen and teenage group dynamics much in this genre. Hook especially came to mind at the end of the movie when the crowd chants “Mo-ses! Mo-ses! Mo-ses!” All I could think of was “Ru-fi-o! Ru-fi-o! Ru-fi-o!” And I wanted an imaginary food fight. Aside from the chanting, the similarity between Hook and Attack the Block exists in the character development. Rufio (Hook) goes from an unliked character to a liked and trusted character much the same way Moses (Attack) transforms from menacing yet scared hood rat mugger to trusted hero of the day.

Speaking of Moses, let me just say- interesting choice of name, Mr. Cornish. Moses is such a biblical name across multiple religions that it is impossible not to automatically associate the name to the biblical leader and part-er of the Red Sea. Whether intentional or not - honestly though, how could it not be intentional - both biblical Moses and South London Moses are depicted as strong leaders - people who bring their followers to safety. Quite interesting.

(Side note: If your first thought when you hear the name Moses is of Gweneth Paltrow’s son, we have issues and are no longer friends. Get your head out of Us Weekly for 30 seconds.)

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. Although it was predictable, it was nice to see a well acted movie by (mostly) newcomers or little known actors. It did startle me in spots, too - it most certainly had the “RAH!” factor. Additionally, cinematically it was beautiful. When I see a movie and can picture shots as stills framed in my house, that is how I know it is perfectly and artistically directed, framed, and filmed. Top that with a stellar soundtrack by Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton (aka The Basement Jaxx), and you’ve got two senses well covered. I didn’t leave the theater pondering the meaning behind the movie - it isn’t that kind of film - but I did enjoy myself for an hour and a half. If you are looking for something with deeper meaning, you won’t find it in Attack the Block. Aside from developing a “like” for the characters - Moses especially - there is no psychology or questions to be answered. It is what it is.

Attack the Block is currently out in theaters in limited release - here in Chicago, it is playing at AMC River East 21, but probably not for long. Go see it quick-like!

3.5 out of 5

Kristen Dant