As the camera descends on the gang of five friends, we find the heroes lurking in back alleys and side streets, searching for a suitable candidate for
armed burglary. The opening instantly recalls The Wire, with its highly-kinetic, grooving dialogue that sucks the viewer in. By the time the
opening credits fade, the audience already has a keen grasp of the group's hierarchy and personae. Whereas the mega-scale of many recent alien
blockbusters often reduces characters to faceless ants scurrying between the legs of colossal invaders, Cornish’s cast of spunky South London
youths is so magnetic that you may just leave the theater trying to pronounce everything in a cockney accent.
When the five hoodlums finally corner an unsuspecting nurse from their apartment block, their catch is interrupted by a flaming alien pod that blazes out
of the sky and totals some poor chap's Honda. As the gang’s unsmiling leader, Moses (John Boyega), searches the wreckage, the pod's
occupant—a kind of hairless, eyeless sloth—attacks Moses and scars his face before fleeing into a nearby playground. Incensed beyond
reason, the gang pursues the alien with deadly intent. After they easily overpower the small creature, they take it back to the block where they
proudly display their catch. Trouble arrives when the beast's bigger, meaner, toothier family shows up looking for their lost compatriots and start
tearing through the titular concrete housing block. The boys, initially enthused at the prospect of more sloth brains to bash, “tool up”
with firecrackers and baseball bats, and run hooting into the streets looking for trouble. But their bloodlust is quickly cooled when they encounter
their new enemy, forcing them to flee back into the block. The remainder of the film is spent following the boys as they play high-tension hide and
seek with their extra-terrestrial pursuers nipping at their bloodied heels, eventually taking refuge in the narcotics store room of the barely
conscious but endearing stoner, Ron (Nick Frost of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame).
The creatures themselves are the star of the show here. Whereas the slim budget is felt in some action sequences that could use a little more pop, the
“gorilla wolf motherfuckers” prove the value of a little imagination in monster design. Built like great apes without eyes or a nose, their
forms are inky black, only becoming visible when they bare their glowing, neon-blue fangs—a trait used to great effect by Cornish in the dark
alleys and poorly lit hallways of the south-London housing project.
Throughout all the running, panting and bloodletting, the film never loses sight of its primary lesson. As more and more block residents get chewed
into mush, Moses realizes that it was his own reckless actions that brought the creatures and are causing those around him to suffer. The parallels to
reality, where seemingly meaningless acts of crime bring more brutal law enforcement and increased poverty, are blunt but touching. It’s a
refreshing change from rote alien-invasion flicks like Battle: L.A., where the “why” of the situation is never considered: Never
mind what we might’ve done, they’re after our precious resources (which is always illogical, since all of Earth’s most
valuable elements, water included, can be found in greater abundance on uninhabited planets). Moses, on the other hand, accepts responsibility and, in
the end, chooses to shoulder the burden himself.
It’s a shame that Attack the Block is currently only being released in eight theaters in the U.S. Perhaps handicapped by its sometimes-indecipherable inner London slang, some American theatergoers might leave wondering just what it was they saw. That’s too bad, because it’s
a rare thing in today’s movie climate when a hostile alien species tells us more about ourselves than just how many rounds we can fire in a