Attack the Block

Who is society's alien now, hmm?

Adam and Joe’s BBC 6Music podcast is something I adore unconditionally. I think of them both as wonderfully charming, friendly, silly men. So it’s weird that one of them has made a whole film – not only that but a proper one, being given a huge publicity push by its distributors Optimum and released in all the mainstream cinema chains this week.

Whilst the loveable duo’s radio shtick often involves revelling in the minutiae of everyday life or the smallest pieces of pop-cultural trivia, Cornish’s film is painted with broader brushstrokes. Each character’s personality niche is established by their first few lines, before the action takes over; snappy scene after snappy scene and ever-present upbeat music drive a plot which moves at breakneck speed. It’s pure comicbook adventure.

This works both for the film and against it. On the one hand, it’s a tightly edited, lean product. The young cast’s energy is successfully harnessed and the film whisks you along to its conclusion in what seems like no time at all. But there were moments when a pause for breath made me hungry for what could have been: towards the end, the combination of a high-rise corridor and some firework smoke creates confusion and suspense, demonstrating the potential of the tower block as genuinely eerie, futuristic sci-fi-esque space.

Worse still, the film occasionally makes efforts to branch into ‘social realism’ which it hasn’t given itself the time or space to pull off. Smack-bang in the middle of the final action sequence, for instance, one character walks into crew-leader Moses’ family home and there are a few lingering shots – old family photographs, a dirty kitchen, an unmade bed – that seem to want to be evocative of some kind of difficult upbringing. It’s completely under-developed, an attempt at poignancy well out of place.

One element I was looking forward to was the language, which Cornish claims to have gone to great pains to make authentic-South-London-street. Well, possibly. Whilst it may not be an entirely fair comparison, I couldn’t help thinking of The Wire’s wonderfully rich aural delineation of Baltimore’s ‘projects’ and ending up relatively unconvinced. This felt like more like cod-street and slightly self-conscious with it – do people really still go around saying “bare” all the time anymore?

Nevertheless there are some memorable lines – the aliens smell “like a shit did a shit” – and with everyone on set apparently having the time of their lives, it’s hard not to get swept up in the general sense of enthusiasm. Nothing’s taken too seriously, which is good. I don’t want to be unkind about this film, so I’ll say this: I think lots of other people will like it.

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5 Responses to Attack the Block

  1. Thomas Mansell says:

    I have no way of knowing if it is the same in south London, but the youth of east London definitely do say “bare” a lot. And “butters”.

  2. Ridz says:

    We don’t say bare in the south any more, Jamie’s right.

  3. Ashley Clark says:

    I can tell you hated it. You can’t fool me!

    • JamieR says:

      Ha! I wanted to like it… in fact I liked it more in the cinema than when I came to write about it, if that makes sense. Perhaps the sign of a good popcorn flick?

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