Chronicles of Ryebone

Attack the Block

After trying to play this movie a few times over the past little while and encountering nothing but sound problems (the audio would just quit after a few minutes), it's perhaps ironic - if I'm using the word appropriately - that the movie would be so acoustically involved. It's certainly not something I would have expected, as the main draw to the film would be the promise of aliens, attacking and something about a block. I read a slight blurb comparing Attack the Block to another great film, District 9. I don't think the comparison is fair, so I'll leave it there.

Perhaps you would like a brief plot synopsis. Basically, some aliens start crashing down to Earth around this block and it's up to a small group of unruly teenagers to put an end to them. Or at the very least, run around scared out of their wits by these monster/alien creatures, providing many opportunities for surprise, gore and - to top it all off - humour. The gang is led by Moses, and they start off fairly despicable, by mugging a poor helpless woman. This immediately forms a stereotype in my mind about England in general, and that would be to be very careful of kids. They are all out to mug you: they have a system that should be patented, and seems to be present in any movie coming out of the country. As the movie progresses though, it becomes clear that they're the heroes, and it doesn't become difficult to cheer them on.

In addition to the dialect discussion, it occurred to me about halfway through the film just what the block was. Here, a block is essentially an island of buildings enclosed by roadway. When I'm watching a movie based in New York and the characters say they must travel, for example, nine blocks, I have absolutely no idea what distance that is. Nine blocks in my neighborhood could get me across the entire city, or in some areas, just a few hundred feet. When I'm in Toronto and we're walking to the comic book store, I anticipate a short distance "just a few blocks" and I feel as though I just walked a half marathon. So I was pleased to find out that in Attack, the titular block refers to an apartment building, and nothing else. The movie takes place in the building and around it, but certainly not an entire neighborhood. What's possible is that the building takes up an entire city block, but I digress. I felt clever, and thought the movie was too.

Then there's the music, which is sharp and basically awesome throughout. It was non-stop too, which I thought might be distracting, but I realized how cool it is: these kids have a soundtrack to their lives. We joke about that every now and again, but here it's a reality - for at least the first half of the movie, I didn't notice the music as much in the second half. When "they" say that music makes a movie, this is case in point. It just fit perfectly.

Finally, there are the aliens themselves, which are infinitely black, with glowing teeth. They're blind, and rely upon sound and smell to get by, and by getting by I mean one of two actions: tearing people apart, or procreating. They look nearly cuddly, if they weren't so eager to kill you. The addition of their blackness was a nice touch that got the movie extra bonus points in my books, as that concept intrigues me. It probably saves them in animation and effects, but that's fine, because the effects were slick and well done, and most importantly not distracting or even detracting.

What I certainly wasn't expecting was a comparison to Super 8, a superb movie on it's own. I read it in the IMDB forum just now (just as I was content with this writeup) and felt it necessary to go back and add it. Super 8 focused on the small town, the people in it: the community. Attack the Block does the very same thing, and perhaps does it better. By restricting the physical space we're set in, we're treated with a more intimate experience and role. But more importantly, we get a true sense of what the community means to these people, and why it doesn't matter if they're just bad people attacking them or bad aliens: the community sticks together and looks out for one another. While Moses and his gang are doing bad things, they do good for the people they live with and near. Super 8 misses the small feeling - perhaps because it was a big Hollywood production - but Attack picks it up and runs with it. It's scored 90% on the Tomatometer, and deserves every point of it.

Tags: Sci-Fi

Print Email