Movie Review:  Attack The Block

Note to Readers:  Due to the relatively in-depth nature of this review, there are spoilers aplenty below.  If you wish to skip the spoilers and get to the up/down vote and why, just jump to the last paragraph!

Overview:  A group of London thugs (young teens), while robbing an innocent woman, witness a white, streaking mass crash into a vacant car.  Upon investigation, one of the thugs “Moses” (played by John Boyega) is intent on robbing the already demolished car when an alien pops out, scratches and attacks him.  Moses fights back and stabs the alien which then takes off running.  Moses decides to give chase and make the alien pay for the attack, which he does by killing the alien.  The group of thugs then take the alien to the home of the neighborhood drug dealer “Ron” (played by one of my favs Nick Frost) where they stash the aliens dead body in “Ron’s Weed Room.”

About this time, the thugs notice that the same white streak in the sky that accompanied the first alien is now again in the sky — only this time multiplied in number.  The new aliens are bigger than the first and take to hunting down the thugs and pretty much anyone else who gets in their way.  To get to the thugs, the aliens pretty much lay siege to a building called “The Block.”  Thus the title — Attack the Block.

My feelings on this film are two-fold and diametrically opposed.  First, as an alien invasion movie (besides some minor quibbles) I liked it.  But second, as a dreaded Film With A Message — I absolutely hated it.  As an alien invasion movie, it was fun, fast paced and somewhat original.  Okay, so the aliens looked like overgrown bears with no eyes and glowing teeth.  But, I can overlook quite a bit when the acting is good and the film feels like everyone involved actually gave a shit about their product.  I can also overlook or even embrace subtle societal messages and overt messages if I am expecting them.  However, I cannot, or more accurately — will not —  give a pass to films that are supposed to be comedic and funny but consistently throw hard-edged messages in my face.  This is especially true when I completely disagree with said message, like the one in Attack the Block.

No doubt, there are probably a lot of critical reviewers out there who liked this film for the very reason that I am a little pissed off about it.  I say “probably” because I have not read any other reviews as of this writing, but considering the films message I don’t have to be Miss Cleo to guess their reaction.  The message?  Oh, that the teenage thugs that are currently so prevalent in London are really just misunderstood, noble young men who are being left behind by society, and it’s up to society and the government to save them.  I mean really, the lead “misunderstood hero” thug (Moses) is saved in the end by hanging on to a British flag.  Talk about hitting us upside the head with a message.  Jeez.

Now look, all in all Attack the Block was a good film.  The acting was solid and the special effects (even the alien-bear-thing) were pretty good.  So, if you can ignore or don’t mind being taught a lesson with your alien invasion film, give it a watch.  However, understand that they really did miss the boat with the opportunity they had with this movie.  All of the ingredients were there for an outstanding and fun film — they simply chose not to use them.  If they had focused more (a lot more) on the comedic aspect rather than on smug (not to mention wrong) messaging, this movie really could have been something special.  Too bad their “message” took precedence.

UNNECESSARY ADD-ON:  When attempting to convince my husband to see this movie, I told him it had (to use his frame of reference) “the guy from Shaun of the Dead” in it.  He said “Oh, that guy.  The one you love.”  I had to explain that I was speaking of Nick Frost and not Simon Pegg and that I don’t “love” Simon Pegg.  But anyway, if you haven’t seen “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” you should, it’s really very good.

UPDATE THAT MIGHT MATTER 9/6/11:  After writing this post I read some other reviews and it turns out that first, I was right about the critical response to this film (they loved it) and second, the film was supposed to be writer/director Joe Cornish’s tribute to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13.  That may be true and it’s completely within his rights to make the film that he wanted.  However, as a viewer, I shouldn’t have to know that before seeing the film and either way, that knowledge doesn’t add anything to the viewing experience.  So, in the end it doesn’t really change anything anyway.