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Attack the Block

Entry updated 7 December 2016. Tagged: Film.

Film (2011). Studio Canal, Film4, and the UK Film Council present a Big Talk Pictures production. Written and directed by Joe Cornish. Cast includes John Boyega, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway and Jodie Whittaker. 88 minutes. Colour.

An ostentatiously British sibling to Skyline (2010) recentred on the urban teenage underclass with a namecheck to J G Ballard, television veteran Cornish's first feature seeks to freshen up the Alien-attack genre by transplanting its tropes to a setting, and a social tribe, underrepresented in film (and in Hollywood all but invisible), as a teenage gang find their south London tower block the target of a localized extraterrestrial Invasion after tangling brutally with a pheromone-laden alien female. Like its coeval Monsters (2010), it uses the Xenobiology of barely-sentient alien invaders to pose heavily framed questions about which side are the real Monsters, though here with considerably less sympathy for the intruders. Thus the opening sequence riskily demonizes its leads with the mugging of a middle-class white nurse (Whittaker) who condemns them as "bloody monsters", only to be thrown into reluctant alliance and growing sympathy under siege, finally protesting "He's a hero" as the gang leader, belatedly revealed to be fifteen years old with a Spider-Man duvet cover, is finally arrested and led away by the consistently ineffectual police. Unromantically frank about the attractions of casual violence and a prospective career in the drug-crime hierarchy which provides the only societal order, the film provocatively invites its audience to identify with the gang mentality, and to reflect on its essential continuity with the adrenalin hit of emotional participation in film violence against outsiders. A refreshing contempt for safe-playing Hollywood protocols on sympathy, class, and the killing of children is offset by a surprisingly puritanical attitude to adult criminality and an unconvincingly sentimentalized reassurance that barriers of class and deprivation can be bridged by a cheek-by-jowl postcode version of Blitz spirit. Nevertheless, the film was a notable UK hit and a significant calling-card for the swiftly rising Cornish. [NL]


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