Blu-ray Review: Attack the Block

Attack the Block works most effectively as relentless escalation. As the film builds to an explosive finale, writer/director Joe Cornish continues to lather on the threats, the violence and the humor. From its charming, if rather unassuming beginning, Attack the Block barrel rushes into greatness — throwing its shoulders down and slamming into audiences’ expectations without any regard to having left them behind in the dust.

John Boyega stars as Moses, a 15-year-old thug who leads a gang of fellow miscreants. Even though Moses and his pals spend their nights mugging unsuspecting women, they aren’t especially bad kids — just unwatched and with too much energy to burn off in any productive way. Moses and his gang find a more heroic way to get their thrills when an alien invasion hits their small patch of turf in South London. Hounded relentlessly by first the aliens and then, through a series of misunderstandings and unlucky circumstances, a local drug dealer named Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) and the police, the boys find their night quickly going from bad to pretty damn terrible.

Dragged along is a young woman who began her night staring down the point of Moses’ knife during a mugging. After escaping the hoodlums, Sam (Jodie Whittaker) continues to find herself drawn into their crazy night of extraterrestrial terror.

The aliens of Attack the Block are not grey bulbous headed probers nor do they have any particular taste for Reese’s Pieces. Instead, the aliens are built like pitbulls on growth hormones, are covered with pitch-black hair and completely blind. The flash of green their victims see as the aliens come rushing at them is not their eyes but instead the rows of razor sharp glow-in-the-dark teeth — primed to chow down on any that get in their way.

Attack the Block works so well because of its frenzied pace. The film never lets go from the beginning and the gang’s continual encounters with the aliens never feel repetitive. The movie has the same makings of culturally defined pop horror that can be found in so many classic, if dated, horror movies from the past. Attack the Block‘s hipness and in-the-know attitude helps give it its edge at the moment but may also, down the line, forever link the film with this particular slice of time.

While the movie’s plot and performances extend beyond the present, the film’s locale and slang are just as much a part of its identity as the film’s fabulous creature designs and seamless special effects.

Joe Cornish has made a monster movie for today’s generation of kids — the kind that never leave home without their cell phone and have already logged hours of experience killing aliens from their time spent in front of the PS3. This is an action movie that is built on the idea that the characters have spent way too much time watching action movies. That’s not to say the film drowns in self-referential stuffing but instead that the film has a language to its choreography and its characters’ motivations that wastes no time in wondering why things are happening — just that the problems must be dealt with in a manner that best assures the heroes will look as badass as possible in the aftermath.

While its debatable about whether or not the film is appropriate to show your kids, what is for certain is that your kids will see this movie. In much the same way that all generations of children have latched onto those films that speak the loudest to them, Attack the Block will find its fanbase on home video and — much more likely — on the cell phones and iPad screens of teenagers waiting for that inevitable day where aliens will invade the planet and the social outcasts and rebels will finally have a chance to prove their worth to the disapproving authority figures that wouldn’t let them watch Attack the Block in the first place.

The film is presented in a 2:40:1 aspect ratio in 1080p. The audio is available in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with an optional French dub. While the image is a very faithful transfer of the source material, Attack the Block has a slight issue with its color palate to begin with. An overabundance of shadows do well to obscure the film’s monsters but they also give the film a dull, muted feel that is made all the more noticeable in those few scenes in which color is allowed to really pop. I wish the film had a funky visual quality that matched its fresh story and even fresher script. The audio is great in balancing the immersive stereo spawned sound effects and the abundance of dialogue — almost all if it recorded and layered over one another as in a Robert Altman film. The sometimes heavy accents and chatty nature of the characters means this is a movie you have to pay extra attention to or you’ll miss some of the best jokes.

Audio Commentaries: Three commentaries are included on the disc. The first one features Cornish with actors Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard and Leeon Jones — the youngsters who the film centers on. Another commentary is with COrnish and actors Whittaker, Luke Tradaway and Nick Frost — the “adults” who find themselves enveloped in the aline mess. Finally, there’s a commentary with Cornish and executive producer Edgar Wright. A sampling of each commentary suggests that they are all rather enjoyably informal while still giving plenty of choice info to the especially curious.

Behind the Block: Clocking in at a little over an hour, this HD documentary offers an extensive look at the making of the film — in all aspects throughout all points in the production. If you’re looking for a good starter point on the special features menu, this is your best bet.

Creature Feature: This 20 minute HD feature explores the creature designs and special effects from the film.

Meet the Gang: A four-minute look at the film’s young cast, in HD.

Unfilmed Action: A short look at some of the deleted scenes that were never even filmed.

That’s a Rap: A short rap from some of the cast members.

Theatrical Trailers: Both the US and UK trailers for the film, in HD.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Attack the Block. Directed by: Joe Cornish. Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Nick Frost and Luke Treadaway. Written by Joe Cornish. Running time: 88 min. Rating: R. Originally released in 2011. Released on Blu-ray: October 25, 2011. Available at

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