Attack the Block (2011): A Fresh and Innovative Sci-Fi Thriller - Review

02 June 2023
Directed by Joe Cornish, "Attack the Block" is a British science fiction action-comedy film that delivers a fresh and innovative take on the alien invasion genre. Released in 2011, the movie combines elements of horror, comedy, and social commentary to create a thrilling and thought-provoking cinematic experience. 

In this review, we will delve into the film's strengths, examining its compelling characters, expertly crafted tension, distinct visual style, and clever use of subversion to discuss how "Attack the Block" distinguishes itself within the genre.

attack the block film poster

"Attack the Block" introduces a group of young teenage delinquents living in a South London housing project. Led by the charismatic Moses, portrayed brilliantly by John Boyega in his breakout role before Star Wars fame, each character brings a unique perspective and personality to the story. From the witty and street-smart Pest to the loyal and protective Dennis, the characters are relatable and endearing, defying stereotypes often associated with urban youth.

As the film progresses, the characters undergo significant development, moving beyond their initial delinquent personas. Cornish masterfully showcases their hidden potential for heroism, transforming them into a group of unlikely yet compelling protagonists. The performances from the young cast are remarkable, displaying both vulnerability and strength, adding depth and emotional resonance to their portrayal.

Beneath its thrilling surface, "Attack the Block" contains insightful social commentary. By focusing on a group of marginalized youth, the film explores themes of prejudice, stereotypes, and societal divisions. The initial encounter with the aliens serves as a catalyst for examining the underlying fears and biases within society. Instead of presenting the aliens as the primary antagonists, Cornish subverts expectations and exposes the real enemies: prejudice and fear.

Throughout the film, the characters face not only the external threat of the aliens but also the internal struggle to overcome their own preconceptions. The inclusion of Sam, a white middle-class woman, within the group of protagonists provides an opportunity to address issues of class and racial dynamics. As the characters come together to protect their block from the extraterrestrial invaders, "Attack the Block" highlights the power of unity and collective action in overcoming societal divisions.

Cornish demonstrates his skill in building tension and suspense, creating a palpable sense of fear and unease throughout the film. From the moment the aliens first appear, the relentless pursuit of the characters, and the nail-biting confrontations, the director maintains a relentless pace that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

The use of tight camerawork and intense sound design enhances the tension, creating a feeling of claustrophobia and imminent danger. The narrow hallways, dimly lit stairwells, and desolate streets of the housing project become a labyrinthine battleground, amplifying the suspense and amplifying the stakes for the characters.

The visual style of "Attack the Block" is distinct and contributes significantly to the film's atmosphere. The dark, gritty urban setting of the housing project becomes a character in its own right, reflecting the harsh realities of the characters' lives and enhancing the film's overall tone. The dilapidated buildings, litter-strewn streets, and graffiti-covered walls serve as a backdrop for the story, immersing the audience in the characters' environment.

Cornish effectively utilizes lighting and color to create contrasting moods and highlight key moments. The use of neon lights during the alien attacks creates a visually striking juxtaposition against the darkened surroundings. This choice not only adds an otherworldly quality to the film but also emphasizes the threat and intensity of the encounters. Additionally, the color palette shifts between vibrant and muted tones, reflecting the changing emotional beats of the story.

The film's visual effects are also commendable, considering its modest budget. The design of the aliens, known as "gorilla-wolf motherfuckers," is unique and memorable. The practical creature effects, combined with minimal CGI, contribute to a sense of tangibility and authenticity, further immersing the audience in the on-screen action.

"Attack the Block" seamlessly blends multiple genres, resulting in a film that is both thrilling and entertaining. While primarily categorized as a science fiction action-comedy, it also incorporates elements of horror and coming-of-age drama.

The film's comedy stems from the witty banter and humorous interactions between the characters, often grounded in their South London slang and street-smart personalities. The humor provides moments of levity amidst the intense and suspenseful alien encounters, allowing the audience to catch their breath and engage with the characters on a more personal level.

Furthermore, the horror elements are skillfully integrated, creating genuinely tense and frightening moments. Cornish capitalizes on the fear of the unknown, building anticipation through well-crafted set pieces and expertly timed jump scares. The aliens themselves, with their glowing teeth and ferocious nature, evoke a sense of genuine menace and danger.

"Attack the Block" stands as an exceptional film that defies genre conventions and offers a fresh take on the alien invasion narrative. Joe Cornish's directorial debut showcases his talent for crafting compelling characters, expertly building tension, and utilizing distinct visual style. The film's social commentary on prejudice and societal divisions elevates its narrative beyond surface-level entertainment, inviting viewers to reflect on their own biases and the power of unity.

With its engaging characters, strong performances, thought-provoking themes, and effective blend of genres, "Attack the Block" remains a standout entry in the science fiction genre. It is a testament to the power of independent filmmaking, demonstrating that even with limited resources, a talented director can deliver an unforgettable cinematic experience.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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