As he briefly introduced the film last night Joe Cornish described Attack the Block as a first time for everyone involved; for himself, for the cinematographer, for Basement Jaxx and Steven Price producing the score and for the 11 young actors bearing the brunt of the film. But from the opening shot as we move down from the nights sky to Oval tube station it is clear that this is not the work of amateurs.
Joe Cornish is no stranger to writing, he’s currently going from writing for Spielberg to writing for Marvel, so it’s no surprise he has managed to produce a funny and action filled script. What is surprising is the dialogue of the gang who discover, and try to fight off, an alien invasion on their block of flats. It’s something that caused me major concern in the trailer and the clips that were released but in the context of the film is not nearly so jarring. You can see Cornish did his research, something highlighted by just how awkward it sounds when Luke Treadaway’s Brewis, more private school than council estate, tries to pull off the dialogue himself.
As a director Cornish keeps his camera moving in a slow and steady style, there’s never so much shaky cam or fast editing that you can’t tell what’s going on. Cornish is happy to let the visuals get the attention they’re due, and the fact that such cinematic visuals are possible in a block of flats is down to Thomas Townend in his first feature as cinematographer. Townend makes the most of dark corners, harsh strip lighting and smoke to create a series of eerie and beautiful images.
Basement Jaxx and Steven Price’s debut score provides the usual necessary functions of making the scary moments scary and the tense moments tense but adds another unique layer. This is no orchestral score and the Jaxx-esque music playing throughout reflects more the culture of the kids involved, adding to the setting rather than taking you out of the film. Danny Elfman would have ruined it.
Moving swiftly on to the conclusion of this review, brilliantly set up structurally in the opening paragraph, let’s talk about the real stars of the film: the stars of the film. As mentioned, Luke Treadaway provides some solid comic relief as the outsider trying to look cool and fit in with the gang of youths. The very gang of youths that had not acted before but became the heart and soul of the film. Terrifying, funny and heroic in equal measure throughout the film, the gang of young tearaways go from petty crime to alien warfare and we go right along with them. As their mugging victim, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), learns to stop fearing and judging the group, we do too and by the end we’re right by their side, kitchen knife in hand. Special mention goes to Alex Esmail as Pest for making me love a character I know and dislike in real life.
It’s hard to be totally objective when I’ve been taught to love the work of Adam and Joe in the past year but there’s no denying this is a great, thrill ride of a film and a confident debut by all involved. This film is a powerhouse, particularly for a low budget British monster movie, all the skill behind the camera makes up for any lack of budget, the aliens themselves a testament to ingenuity over cost.
Now as a treat for anyone who is still reading, a clip featuring Mr Joe Cornish: