Attack the Block (Blu-ray)
One of my favorite things about movies is being taken to a world that I have never experienced. Lots of movies do this by subtly exposing you to something you didn’t know was compelling, like UP IN THE AIR or THE HURT LOCKER. Others take us to worlds that we don’t know existed, and then flip that world on it’s head to take us to a completely different place. WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was one such world. Another can be found in Director Joe Cornish’s breakout horror/comedy ATTACK THE BLOCK. It may seem like a strange comparison but both films deliver a unique world that is filled with unbelievable (but brilliant) moments.
ATTACK THE BLOCK can be best described in a few brief words as delivered by writer/director Cornish to two of his younger cast members (in the long but great making-of feature described below). Essentially – He saw SIGNS (M. Night Shyamalan’s last great movie, in my humble opinion) and really liked it; he wondered what would happen if aliens landed where he grew up (the rough streets of South London). It’s a simple enough premise but that’s exactly what makes a great movie. Give me a world filled with real people, turn it on its head, and I’ll keep coming back for more.
“The block” refers to the apartment building where our main characters live. After mugging a young woman named Sam (the lovely Jodie Whittaker, a mainstay of British television), Moses and his gang (Pest, Jerome, Dennis, and Biggz) are attacked by an alien who falls out of the sky into a nearby car, allowing Sam to get away. Desperate to defend their turf and make a name for themselves, they follow the wounded creature, fight it, and kill it. Realizing that they might have found a rare animal, they bring it back to the block for safe keeping in Ron’s “weed room” which they call the safest place on the block.
Soon, however, the block is crawling with more alien “creatures,” and they all seem to be hunting down our little hoodlums. To be honest, I had a hard time with this movie at the beginning. I knew that I was supposed to be cheering for these kids, but I just didn’t see anything redeemable in them at the start. They seemed cruel and unforgivable. But to these kids’ credit we get to witness an evolution within each of them as they decide that they need to step up and defend their home. They even enlist the aid of Sam (a nurse) when they suffer a vicious attack, and they come to rely on and trust one another as they realize that they are all very similar even though they come from different worlds.
ATTACK THE BLOCK’s magic is dependent on the absolute charm of the gang of boys. While not evident at the beginning of the film, we are supposed to see them as hoodlums because that is how everyone sees them. We’re not supposed to want to get to know them but because we get to see them during a difficult situation, we get to see a side that they are rarely able to show in their neighborhood. Producer Edgar Wright (who recently directed SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD) brings us another hit with delightful characters. Thanks to Cornish’s writing/directing and some really incredible performances from young actors John Boyega (Moses), Alex Esmail (Pest), Leeon Jones (Jerome), Franz Drameh (Dennis), and Simon Howard (Biggz) this movie is catapulted from simple genre film to absolute joy. While it suffers from a few pacing issues in the first act, if you enjoy horror/comedy you absolutely cannot miss with this one!
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) A very nice transfer really emphasizes this stylized view of south London. The colors are really nice and the picture is crisp, giving you the feeling of being right next to the boys and the aliens.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) The sound is really nicely done, from the fireworks in the opening to the quiet dread surrounding the alien attack and all of the highs and lows between.
Junior Commentary: Writer/Director Joe Cornish, actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones: Cornish leads the boys in an interview style commentary. They relate to each other well and have some fun, making this an interesting and fun commentary. If you enjoy the film and liked the kids, this one is a must.
Senior Commentary: Writer/Director Joe Cornish with Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, and Nick Frost: The second commentary track on the blu-ray, this one features the adults from the film. A bit more inside, more technical in nature, but no less interesting. Cornish must really enjoy commentaries, because he leads the group from one interesting conversation to another.
Executive Producer Commentary: Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright: The third and final commentary track on the blu-ray, this one gives even more information about the making of the film. Cornish and Wright, obvious friends, discuss the ins-and-outs of making movies, the difficulties of directing your first feature, and other intriguing anecdotes.
Behind the Block (01:01:23) A lengthy feature about the making of the film. Includes video from the kids auditions, interviews, and lots of peeks behind the scenes. This is a pretty intensively technical look, but the kids are so charismatic that it’s hard to turn away. An enjoyable feature.
Creature Feature (20:29) A shorter feature explaining how the aliens were designed, how they moved, and eventually were refined through computer animation.
Meet the Gang (04:09) A quick look at the characters and the actors who play them.
Unfilmed Action (04:59) Director Cornish discusses some of the material that was cut due to budget constraints.
That’s a Rap (02:23) The kids had a great time coming up with “gangsta rap” while they were waiting around the set.
Also included on the disc are the UK Trailer and the US Red Band Theatrical Trailer, and other various sneak peeks.