Attack the Block

Director - Joe Cornish

Cast - Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Nick Frost

Country of Origin - U.K.

Discs - 1

MSRP - $35.99

Distributor - Sony Pictures

Reviewer- Scott MacDonald

The Film (4/5)  

     I'm going to cut to the chase, Attack the Block is probably the best damn alien invasion film I have seen in a long time. Attack the Block is the debut feature from director Joe Cornish, previously known as a member of the comedy duo Adam and Joe. Many director's end up choosing genre film making as a platform into feature film making, so it's no surprise to see Cornish come out of the gate with a genre movie. He however comes out of the gate with a feature that is pulsing with charisma, a great sense of humor, excellent action, and dare I say some of the finest creature design I have seen in quite some time. 

     The film Jodie Whittaker as Sam who gets mugged by a gang of South London kids while on her way home one night.  The gang consists of Moses (John Boyega), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard), Dennis (Franz Drameh), and Pest (Alex Esmail). When the mugging has reached a fevered pitch, an object falls out of space, and into a car adjacent to the group. Sam takes the opportunity to escape, Moses leads the group over to the car thinking they can loot the vehicle for it's contents before discovering an angry alien inside. The gang quickly dispatch of the alien, and thinking they may have a discovery on their hands that could make them rich.

     In order to verify their discovery they take it to the local nature expert, a drug dealer named Ron played by the always excellent Nick Frost. Ron suggest that it may be alien in nature, and the boys decide that for safe keeping they would like to keep it in the "weed room" of Ron's boss "Hi Hatz." He agrees, and soon after more of the creatures begin to fall from the sky, the group not shying away from alien battles decide if they can take one, they can take them all, and grab some weapons, and head out to do battle with the aliens.  Unfortunately, for the gang it proves to be much more of a challenge than the first, and sends them running back to their apartment in the process Moses gets arrested for the mugging, one of them gets injured in an alien attack. It's up to the remaining gang members, Sam, and a few pre-teen rejects to defend the block from the invading aliens.

   Attack the Block has been the "geek darling" of late 2011. I have been unable to hit a website reviewing theatrical releases without seeing positive press for the film. As I am unable to see many films in theaters these days, I avoided the reviews, but put it on my must see list when it did hit Blu. I am happy to say the wait was definitely worth it. Not only is Attack The Block a great sci-fi film, it may simply be the best sci-fi film of 2011, and the best creature feature I have seen in much longer than that.

     The creature design, which is very simple, but very freaking awesome essentially makes the aliens looks like a werewolf-gorilla hybrid with sharp day-glo green teeth.  The latter feature is what you see the most of in the film.  It's a decision probably steeped in the budget, but also works well in providing some effective chills.

     The film also treads the careful balance between a great sci-fi/horror/action picture with great scares, but also excellent action set pieces.  It also blends into the mix a fantastic sense of humor, which is hard not to achieve when your cast includes such comedy veterans as Nick Frost, that being said the cast of newcomers that make up the gang have an excellent energy about themselves as well.

   On a final note Attack the Block appears to have been courting controversy in some circles for it's depiction of South London gangs as the stories heroes.  From the research I've done, this was a decision from director/writer Joe Cornish made after being robbed himself by a similar gang.  And while I myself felt some initial trepidation siding with a gang of people who start the film by holding an innocent woman by knife point, I feel that their character arcs were for the most part nicely done, and actually show character development. One of the only negative points I have to say about Attack the Block is about that said development, and I feel Cornish and company a few times (such as the scene in Moses' bedroom) go a little too far to show the innocence underneath the characters initial harsh exterior, and end up feeling a little too after school special.

     That is really my only minor complaint with Attack the Block. This is a film that works as a creature feature if that's what you're looking for, and works on multiple other levels if you're looking for that.  It definitely is a film that elevates itself well beyond it's tag line of "inner city vs. outer space." 

Audio/Video (4/5)

     Sony has done an absolutely fantastic job bringing Attack the Block to Blu-ray.  The film is presented in it's original 2:40:1 aspect ratio, and for a low budget alien film it really looks fantastic. There is a nice layer of film grain over the whole thing which adds a nice projected-like feeling to the Blu. The colors (what colors there are, this is a dark film) pop, and flesh tones are largely accurate.  The only negative is some minor issues with the black levels, which occasionally border on gray.

     Sony has provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 English track for Attack the Block with optional subtitles.  The track is excellent, dialogue is clear and audible throughout the film. The effects and music are mixed to not bury the dialogue or each other, and while not the most sound heavy film, when the action does kick in, the effects really do pick up on the track. 

Extras (5/5)

     Sony has really put together a definitive package for Attack the Block. There are 3 commentaries the first with Joe Cornish, and the kids in the gang, the 2nd with director Cornish with Jodie Whitaker, Luke Tredaway, and Nick Frost, the third features Cornish with executive producer (and Shaun of the Dead/Scott Pilgrim director) Edgar Wright.

     This is followed by with a series of documentaries and featurettes starting with the in-depth making of Behind the Block which runs a little over an hour in length and features interviews with the cast and crew of the film, and details the production of Attack the Block.  We then have a 20 minute piece entitled Creature Feature which details the process used to design the films creature effects.  This is followed up by a 5 Minute short piece called Meet the Gang, where we are introduced to the kids behind the films gang.  There is then a short documentary featurette called Unfilmed Action which details segments which had to be cut to keep the film under budget.  The disc is wrapped up with a short segment where the cast does an impromptu rap, and a few trailers for Attack the Block.

Overall

     Attack the Block was one of the most fun times I've had with a movie this year. The creature design rocked, and was used well, and the film was a perfect balance of scares, action, and laughs.  The Blu-ray has fantastic A/V quality, and is loaded with extras.  Highly Recommended.