Joe Cornish, one half of comedy duo Adam and Joe, graduates from cuddly toy re-enactments of blockbuster movies to his first feature film – Attack the Block, a boisterous sci-fi horror comedy mash-up in which a gang of teenage hoodies repel an alien invasion from their south London council estate.
As the youngsters fight off the extraterrestrials (malevolent balls of black fur and day-glo fangs), a handful of adults get caught up in the fray, including Nick Frost’s addled dope dealer, Luke Treadaway’s posh stoner and Jodie Whittaker’s mugging victim turned ally.
The grown-ups are all great, but the film belongs to their young co-stars, headed by John Boyega as cocky 15-year-old gang leader Moses, and they all turn in winning performances. The fact that their slang is often impenetrable only makes them more convincing as contemporary inner-city teens.
Inspired by his love of 1980s monsters movies and gang films, and his own experience of getting mugged in south London, Cornish has played a blinder with his directing debut. His script perfectly mixes laughs, thrills and scares, while the action sequences move faster than a BMX-riding hoodie scarpering from the feds (that’s the police to you and me). Indeed, at a whisker under 90 minutes, the film flies by so quickly that there’s scarcely time to grasp the hug-a-hoodie subtext.
Society at large may write off these young kids as monsters but we shouldn’t, reckons Cornish. Even so, he risks audience alienation by initially setting the kids up as a bunch of thugs. And then deftly reclaims sympathy for them as events unfold. He even inserts the odd sly dig at knee-jerk tabloid reactions to social problems. As one of the teens breathlessly explains while trying to raise the alarm about the extraterrestrial threat: “It’s got nothing to do with gangs or drugs or rap music or violence in video games.”
Cornish doesn’t overdo the sociology. He’s aiming for the multiplex not the art-house – and he’s hit the target. Attack the Block is a genuine crowd-pleaser. Indeed, with knowing nods to such genre classics as Critters and Gremlins, The Warriors and Assault on Precinct 13, Cornish has created his own gang-banging, creature-feature gem.
On general release from 13th May.