You are currently viewing At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Attack the Block “2011”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Attack the Block “2011”

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy Horror/Stars: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, Danielle Vitalis, Paige Meade, Sammy Williams, Michael Ajao, Chris Wilson/ Runtime: 88 minutes

I think it is a rather safe statement to make that the weird and the seemingly otherworldly has, for as long as I can remember, been lovingly viewed as an iconic component of some of the finest fictional narratives of our times be they written down or put on a screen for our viewing pleasure. Indeed among our many other wonderful attributes as a species, I feel that humanity has long possessed a desire to witness the unusual, the terrifying, or just plain and simply the stuff that nightmares are made of…as long as we can do so in a setting that we are comfortable in like a darkened room all by ourselves on a cold winter’s night with a cup of hot cocoa (or maybe something stronger) or in a living room surrounded by those we love and a big bowl of popcorn to munch on to name but a few of the more time-honored examples. Suffice it to say that, in many respects, fiction is our finest way to get away from how chaotic and terrifying reality can be. It is in that regard incidentally that there is no denying that quite a bit of the fiction conjured up in the past 100 years seems to take great delight in showing or regaling us with the annihilation of all that humanity has constructed for itself as a species to say nothing of loss of human life period be it by, among other things, a nuclear war, killer robots, armies of brain-craving zombies, and (of course) the arrival of some very hostile neighbors from another planet. It is with that last category in mind that we now come to the slice of cinema I am reviewing for you today and which is yet another entry in the “when aliens attack” subgenre of science fiction 2011’s Attack the Block. A film that tells the tale of an attack by extraterrestrial forces on London and the fight to quell the alien menace by, no kidding, a team of young hoods who are determined to keep their area safe no matter what. In that regard, this slice of cinema is quite the distinct film. Indeed this film is not really like Independence Day which dealt with the subject of an alien invasion in a lot more on-point manner. Rather, this slice of cinema is one that chooses to place its concentration on realistic, bewildered, terrified, and completely blindsided people who must combat a force they know next to nothing about with only their intellect as well as any tools they can scrounge up. It is when looking at this film through that distinct prism that it might not be the most complicated or grandiose slice of cinema in existence, but at the very least it has integrity, it is perfectly ok with what it is, and best of all, it is quite engaging. No this slice of cinema won’t prove to be a game changer for its subgenre, but it is a fairly well-made movie that provides a distinct blast from an alien ray gun to this iconic narrative that an entry in this that is just wanting to blow stuff up really couldn’t bring to the table in quite the same way.

The plot is as follows: Attack the Block gets its riveting narrative underway by dropping us off in a section of London where groups of gang-bangers run rampant and engage in acts of criminality on a whim with the only thing capable of sending a shiver down their spine being the possibility of getting carted off by the cops. To that end we quickly see that one of the aforementioned groups, led by a very street-savvy and devoted young man by the name of Moses proves to be successful in their attempts to get a frightened woman by the name of Sam to start coughing up her valuables while out in the streets one night. Fortunately (?) for Sam, we see that she is saved from having to give any more than just her ring and cash when something falls from the sky and utterly annihilates an automobile parked in the near vicinity. To that end, we see that our gang of little rascals and their fearless leader decide to divert their attention capacity from Sam to investigating the crash. An action that sees them discovering a terrifying and unknown entity that they then swiftly kill and carry with them as a twisted prize for their actions. Thus, we see our group take their conquered prey to a pair of local “gardeners” they know in the hopes that the duo will keep it safe for them whilst they figure out a way to make some serious bank off it. Unfortunately what looked like a really easy pay day soon evaporates into the night when the group discovers that this organism is by no means an outlier courtesy of more critters like the one they killed falling out of the sky. Suffice it to say that it is up to our gang of little rascals, with the reluctant aid of Sam, to figure out not only what they are up against it, but also how to thwart it so they can keep the block safe all whilst staying out of the clutches of the hopelessly stupid local cops who can’t seem to process just what is going on and that, for once, the gang is not responsible for it.

Now I won’t lie to you movie goer: Attack the Block is most certainly not the most iconic nor is it the final word when it comes to stories that deal with aliens deciding to try and take over our planet. At the same time, the fact that this is a novel stab of a time-honored narrative to say nothing of its delightful talent to function as both an easy-going as well as fairly potent slice of cinema all at once, does help to make this slice of cinema a wonderful inclusion to the library of films in this category of movie magic to say nothing of one that a person who likes this subgenre should definitely give a watch. With that said, though this is a slice of cinema that you should go into with the correct set of suppositions in mind so you can enjoy it to the best of your ability. Thus you should know right now this slice of cinema is not a visually anarchic, stylized to the gills, extremely blaring run-and-gun kind of alien invasion film. Rather, this slice of cinema is one that manages to be a fairly even-keeled analysis of an invasion from the ground up that also deals with a group of individuals whose choices in their fairly young lives (I’m hoping) might not make them the most relatable characters in a film, but who still manage to become quite heroic by the end of this film’s 88-minute, including credits, runtime. At the same time, I should also tell you that there is not a lot of substance to this film. Yet even though this film is just a collection of pursuit moments blended in with some instances of narrative as well as fleshing out the characters a little bit, it still is given to us in a final product that is both wonderfully even-keeled to say nothing of immensely watchable. Also yes this slice of cinema may make you raise an eyebrow at just how believable certain points are, but thankfully it not only doesn’t ever become an annoyance, but it also doesn’t throw common sense out into the middle of the road at any point in time either. Suffice it to say that at the end of the day, it is this film’s talent for being a better film than even its plot might seem to hint at it being that proves to be the best thing this slice of cinema has going for it. I mean let’s be real dear reader: the very mention of the idea of “gang bangers going up against extraterrestrials” just right off the bat seems to sound like something you would see in either one of those gloriously cheesy Sci-Fi Channel Original Movies or in a franchise that is desperately trying to stay afloat. Yet when placed in the more than capable care of film helmer Joe Cornish, this film does manage to show itself off to be a film that is both constructed very well and also quite engaging without really desiring to be any more or less. Yes on a technical level, this film isn’t quite able to conjure up a more vast feeling of anarchy and there are some things it does gloss over, but the fact that it is able to lock in and stay on point with both the range it is choosing to operate with as well as the tinier than usual group of individuals it wishes to focus on does bless this film with more space to relax to say nothing of quite a bit of chances to really flesh the characters out. Along with that, we see that the restrictions placed on the narrative might not permit for a more typical narrative that a film like this would typically operate with, but the experience of witnessing first hand a group of people trying to deal with a situation that is not only a complete mystery to them, but steadily getting worse just helps to add to the novelty of the viewing experience altogether. Suffice it to say that what might seem like detractors to this slice of cinema often prove to be areas where this film is able to rise above them and actually distinguish itself beautifully from a lot of its fellow entries in this distinct subgenre.

With that being said, it should also be established that this slice of cinema is also the blessed recipient of a collection of engaging and enjoyable performances in front of the camera as well. This starts with Jodie Whitaker who is absolutely terrific as Sam. Yes this is a role that in other movies like this might just be reduced to being no more than the typical “damsel in distress/love interest for the hero” archetype, but Whitaker does a beautiful job of really making Sam her own character in this. This includes not only making her tough and resourceful in her own right, but also in such ways as a running bit throughout the film that consists of Sam telling the gang of boys she may be working alongside them, but that doesn’t make her any less ticked off at them for mugging her earlier in the film. Suffice it to say it’s a winning performance and I’m glad to see that the talent at the heart of it has gone on to have quite the career since. Now out of everyone making up the unlikely gang of impressionable youths turned alien butt kickin’ heroes, we see that it is perhaps John Boyega who fares the best as the gang’s ferocious yet also devoted leader Moses though a close second would have to be Leeon Jones who, in his role of Jerome, brings to the group much needed degrees of heart and compassion in equal measure. Yet besides the aforementioned talent, this slice of cinema is also one that is blessed with a wonderful co-starring performance from the always hilarious Nick Frost as the block’s connected yet extremely affable and relaxed “gardener” (think about it) of sorts Ron. Indeed it may be a co-starring role in every sense of the word, but every time Frost is on screen he is just a delight to watch through and through as he works with these “new kids on the block” so to speak in trying to combat this alien menace. Suffice it to say that this is one cast that knows the kind of film they are making and yet they still manage to bring their best to this cinematic affair and give us a wonderful group of characters to follow and root for throughout.

All in all a very novel and quite creative stab at the whole “invaders from another planet” narrative, the slice of cinema that is Attack the Block is one that does a wonderful job of blending together both comedy and horror in equal measure in order to regale us with its saga of outcast youngsters becoming a hope for humanity in combating some truly vicious extraterrestrial critters. Yes the competent work done in front of the camera by this film’s talented cast of players as well as the unique design of its alien menace do aid this slice of cinema in seriously distinguishing itself. At the same time though it’s the sly contrasts as well as how the film chooses to present itself that are what help it in being so engaging such as our gang of ruthless hoods soon showing they’re more aimless young people and the aliens on the warpath might not actually be the most ruthless force to be reckoned with on the block to name but a couple of examples. Suffice it to say that this slice of cinema may be one that is operating with quite a few familiar situations that are par for the course for this kind of film, but the film manages to rise above them courtesy of utilizing ideas that are highly novel and amusing in equal measure. Suffice it to say that if all of this sounds like your proverbial cup of tea guv’nor then definitely give this slice of cinema a try. I promise you will most likely find a fair bit to enjoy here. If not that’s all well and good, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself seriously wishing you had when Earth is invaded by alien visitors that look like seriously upgraded versions of the titular entity from the 1986 gem Critters. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Attack the Block “2011” a solid 3.5 out of 5.