Monday, January 9, 2012

Attack the Block makes alien invasion movies new again

Attack the Block is a genius combination of Men in Black and Shaun of the Dead, with a dash of Boyz 'n the Hood and Pineapple Express to taste. Much like Shaun (with which its director and producer were intimately involved), it takes a familiar genre--in this case, the alien invasion plot--and ironically tweaks it to comic and poignant effect. The film follows a gang of teenage thugs in South London defending their housing project and friends from a herd of blind, fur-covered, alien quadrupeds with phosphorescent fangs and outstanding athletic ability. As teenaged Moses and his crew, which eventually grows to include a young woman they mugged earlier in the evening, fight off the invaders and elude the untrustworthy and dubious police, we all get, to paraphrase one of the characters, too much madness to put in one text.

Signs was lauded for putting an alien invasion in tight focus--looking only at the effect of extra-terrestrial visitation on one family rather than the global scope taken by films like War of the Worlds or Independence Day. Attack the Block uses this same strategy, but rather than feeling claustrophobic, it manages to infuse larger arguments about race and class in contemporary London into a plot that also includes bloodthirsty aliens, stoned and sword-wielding tweens, Nick Frost, and one tricked-out Super Soaker. The movie is funny, suspenseful, and surprisingly uplifting--and don't be dissuaded if you have to use the subtitles at first to comprehend the thick accents of the principals. It's worth the effort.

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