Wednesday, 17 July 2013

On 17.7.13 by KieronMoore in , , , , , , ,    No comments
Things I’ve watched on TV this week:

  • Luther – London is a worn-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous city. Idris Elba’s on the case.
  • Run – London is a worn-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous city. Olivia Colman is sad about this.
  • Attack the Block – London is a worn-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous city. More so when invaded by aliens.
  • Pointless – Game show in which Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman quiz contestants on obscure trivia.

There are two main things I’ll take from this viewing. Firstly, an increased paranoia about my upcoming work placement in London. Secondly – Attack the Block is an excellent film.

The directing debut of comedian Joe Cornish, Attack the Block follows a gang of rough youths – the kind of kids you cross the street to get away from, the kind of kids who never acted like this back in your gran’s day – as they defend their housing estate from gorilla monsters which fall from outer space.

I was really expecting to have a problem with liking these characters. Indeed, when the film started with them violently mugging innocent Sam (Jodie Whittaker), I wasn’t optimistic. But it’s a remarkable testament to the script that, as the film went on, I found myself having fun watching them. Through the fight against the aliens, the leader of the pack, Moses (John Boyega), starts to understand the damage he causes to those around him and learns to become a better person. It’s a very nicely handled shift in character, leading to a great climax in which it’s hard not to support him; he apologises to his former victim and gives back the stolen goods, before heroically putting his life on the line to save the block. I was, however, waiting for a moment in which the gang’s initial need to turn to violent crime was explained, meaning that the potential to change had always been inert within them, but this moment never came – I do think working such a scene into the redemption story could elevate the film from 4 to 5 stars. Nevertheless, the gang did really grow on me, the character arc hits all the right notes, and, the film manages to criticise violent youth culture without ever feeling nasty or spiteful in tone.

This strong core story is made a joy to watch by the film’s sharp sense of humour. There are a number of set-up and payoff gags reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead, my favourite being when posh student Brewis (Luke Treadaway) decides to “get the next one” when the gang enter a lift ahead of him; he later makes the same decision when the lift opens to reveal an armed, blood-soaked gangster standing atop the bodies of his two cronies and an alien gorilla monster. Brewis is just one of a vibrant cast of supporting characters, making light fun of many contemporary stereotypes – also including down-on-her-luck nurse Sam, who defends herself with a guitar, and a brilliant appearance from Nick Frost as a chummy drug dealer. The interactions drawn from bunching all these characters together and dumping aliens on them are hilarious. My favourite line, when Sam assumes the boys’ need for shelter stems from gang issues – “This ain’t got nothin’ to do with gangs. Or drugs, or rap music, or violence in video games.” 

The laughs may not be as frequent as Shaun of the Dead, but Attack the Block definitely has a knowing satirical edge, which, as well as the well-directed action, makes it a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema. Firmly grounded both in science fiction and in the real world, it’s a film that uses its genre elements brilliantly to explore the nature of gang culture and its victims, and to play on stereotypes, subvert them, and make seemingly unlovable youths into lovable characters. 


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