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Attack the Block, the directorial debut of comedian Joe Cornish, centers on a gang of tough inner-city kids tasked with protecting their South London turf from a terrifying alien invasion.
With a wicked sense of humor reminiscent of John Landis at his peak, Cornish doesn’t succumb to merely mimicking the genre movies he grew up with and clearly loves – he creates a wholly original classic destined to stand alongside them. His deft handling of action and the effortless way he teases the humor and horror from the script make it hard to believe this is his first time as director.
Composers Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe (a.k.a. Basement Jaxx) working together with Steven Price only add to the overall feeling of nostalgia. By channeling John Carpenter, the film’s moody score is a pitch-perfect complement to the non-stop action and gore.
Attack the Block‘s aliens, a creepy cross between a gorilla and a sightless great white shark, hark back to the heyday of “men in suit” monster movies. Cornish uses computer-generated effects sparingly in the film; consequently, his creatures have a weight and reality that is nearly impossible for anything rendered with a computer to achieve. These homicidal alien invaders inhabit the space with the actors, selling the tension and ratcheting up the stakes.
But as terrific as the alien creatures are, the real stars of Attack the Block are undoubtedly the kids themselves. Cornish and casting director Nina Gold have assembled a tight-knit crew of anti-Goonies that gives an authentic and hilariously memorable performance.
As Moses, the leader of the crew, John Boyega oozes authority. When he barks commands to his hotheaded second-in-command Dennis (Franz Drameh), it’s with the mastery and control of an older and more experienced actor.
Evoking Corey Feldman at his early-‘80s best, newcomer Alex Esmail plays the gang’s comic relief Pest with rapid-fire delivery and comedic timing that warrant a second viewing of the film. Simon Howard and Leeon Jones round out Moses’ crew of heroic miscreants. Jones, as the savvy Jerome, gets one of the biggest laughs in the film while contending with the horrors of cell phone text and data rate plans during an alien takeover. “I’ve only got one text left,” he shouts at the others. “This is too much madness to put into one text!”
Amid this cast of young scene-stealers, Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) takes on the role of elder statesman. As Ron, the cowardly drug dealer who looks out for Moses and the gang only when it’s convenient, Frost is both funny and endearing.
Picked up for distribution by Sony Screen Gems after its award-winning American debut at the South by Southwest film festival, Attack the Block is that rare beacon of filmmaking that has sadly become alien fare on the cinematic landscape– especially during the summer blockbuster season. Neither a comic-book adaptation nor a sequel, it has only a brilliant young cast, a stellar script and the skills of a supremely talented director to rely on.
Attack the Block invades theaters on July 29.