Attack the Block (UK - BD RB)
Marcus escapes a towerblock full of killer furbies to bring you this review...
While mugging local nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) a gang of hoodies led by Moses (John Boyega) are startled by an object falling from the sky and smashing into a car. As they investigate, a toothed creature attacks Moses and in retaliation the gang track it down and kill it. Bragging their strange kill to local drug dealer Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter), Moses gets ‘promoted’ to sell higher class drugs but when the gang notice more creatures falling from the sky and this time they are bigger and meaner, normal everyday hoody life turns into survival.
Attack The Block gets going so fast you’ll find yourself having no time at all to question the ridiculousness of the situation. A Brixton high rise block, suddenly attacked by furry, bioluminescent toothed beasties with only a bunch of wayward youths doing anything to get in their way. It’s so out of left field that you just go with it. The great use of dialogue and slang, the almost oblivious approach to dangerous situations and the frantic skirmishes with the beasties feels absolutely acceptable given the fast paced build up and Attack the Block comes off feeling very fresh. I have to say though, despite this grin inducing approach to the alien invasion movie territory, the movie didn’t quite cut it for the entire eighty odd minutes.
For the first hour I was totally on board. I liked how Joe Cornish never went for the safer friendlier approach to the gang but instead starts with a raw mugging. You’re sort of forced to overcome your instant dislike of this bunch. I loved the interactions with the young gang, though I have to say I thought the funny stuff would be more consistent. I liked the approach to the horror/action sequences a whole bunch - there’s something about the man-in-suit approach that always wins the day when it comes to realism and the use of the tower block was quite fun. Yet somehow this ran out of steam for me with about twenty minutes left to go.
I liked the angle of Moses bringing evil to the block and feeling he has to sort it out but I can’t say I was satisfied with the celebration of his heroism at the end. It felt a bit forced to me and made a fairly light fun piece of horror a little too heavy in its ‘message’. I also sort of stopped caring by the time they worked out how to stop the blacker than black beasties and I even got a bit bored of them after while too. Sort of like cartoon villains in that you knew they were dangerous but they stopped feeling that way towards the end, despite their numbers, they didn't seem to do anything different after a while, just be there.
I don’t know what I was expecting really. I liked the look of this movie early on but never got caught in the hype enough to go out of my way to see it. It was only recently a lot of friends have said how much they like it and I was keener to see it but somehow I thought it would be a bit slicker than this, a bit funnier, maybe a bit messier and just a bit more of an enjoyable experience. Don’t get me wrong I had some fun with Attack the Block but it just didn’t keep me locked in for the entire runtime.
With the entire movie set at night and with furry aliens that are the “blackest black ever” Attack the Block requires a bit of clever lighting to make everything glow. Street scenes are usually filled with hyper accelerated street lamps that glow golden rather than amber to bathe everything, along with the odd bit of green and blue to give everything a little more flavour. Inside the block we’re given relativity realistic lighting, all be it a little warmer than a stark documentary would offer up. However the combination of bold colours in the more enclosed spaces really enables blues, reds and greens to spring to life and adds quite a lot to the image.
As for the general appearance of the movie, the image is relatively soft, though has its elements of impressive detail in close ups. Texture on Moses’ cap are quite striking on close inspection and the blood soaked insides of the blocks' lifts looks quite good under the brighter lighting. As for the aliens. They look pretty great. The technique of making them pure black with only their glowing teeth is quite effective and even though the odd shot of them can have some patchy black areas, usually their striking blackness in the frame can look quite remarkable.
The strong musical presentation of this DTS-HD Master Audio track is by far the most impressive element. There are some clever tricks popping around the speakers when the score really gets going and the epically shot slow motion climax really does use every speaker to sell the action. As for the rest of the track it’s actually quite plain. The odd piercing alien roar or strong bassy thump turns up from time to time but generally the dialogue and atmospherics feel a little thin. Really this is quite a simple track with only the score punching above its weight but on the positive side of things that’s really all that’s required.
With three commentaries there’s plenty of extra enjoyment to be had with this release. The first commentary with Joe Cornish and the kids (the ‘junior’ track) is fast paced with everyone all good to go with their stories of the film. Cornish carries the track with questions and this continues into the ‘senior’ track with the grown up cast. This is a less lively track but equally as engaging and adds a different perspective to the movie. The last track with Cornish and executive Producer Edgar Wright is a nice change of pace and it’s essentially two directors discussing what they do, as well as both their paths to get here. This feels less scene specific and more like a podcast of sorts and really was a great listen.
'Behind the Block' (58:53 HD) is a nice weighty insight into the movie. Casting, key scenes, on set footage it’s all here and is exactly what all making ofs should be. There’s a lot of audition footage, on set shenanigans, the location filming and a fine mixture between web doc style stuff with the usual making of style.
'Creature Feature' (19:39 HD) is the part I was most interested in because what seems and indeed is, a relativity simple movie monster technique was very effective in the world of the film. I was quite surprised to see big time movie stunt guy Terry Notary (a face you’ll know if you watch stunt featurettes, such as Burton’s Planet of the Apes - Seriously, if you don't know the name, check out the movies this guy has worked on with IMDB). Anyway this is really loads of on set footage of a man-in-suit attacking people and then the visual effects to create the look of the creature. Good stuff.
‘Meet the Gang’ (03:58 HD) is a meet and greet with the gang members. ‘It’s a Rap’ (02:18 HD) is a compilation of the cast singing and rapping. ‘Unfilmed Action’ (04:46 HD) is some Joe Cornish ideas for scenes that were cut as they couldn’t afford to even consider doing them on film and there's also a 2 minute trailer and a sixty second trailer.
Attack the Block was a lot of fun even if I didn’t come away all that buzzed by it. The fast paced alien invasion movie had plenty of charm but somewhere in that last half hour it got a little stagnant and blew through the motions rather than holding onto its own identity in the busy sci-fi genre. The disc is packed full of great features, especially those commentaries and while the A/V isn’t all that in your face it’s got a few good tricks here and there.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 19th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, L-PCM Stereo 2.0 English
Subtitles: Audio Descption English
Extras: Three Commentaries, Making of, Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Joe Cornish
Cast: Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, Joey Ansah, Chris Wilson, Adam Leese, Lee Nicholas Harris, Flaminia Cinque
Genre: Comedy, Horror and Sci-Fi
Length: 87 minutes
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