WHAT I LIKED: Many great stories start by asking "what would happen if," but often the best ones use that question to put the problems and wonders of reality to the test.
Joe Carnahan's 'Attack the Block,' revolves around the genius proposition of an alien invasion which happens not in the deep South of America, but on a council estate in Peckham. A group of wannabe teenage gangsters encounter them first, and their attempts to take them down over the course of the film are, on the one hand, an opportunity for all the hilarity you might expect. The aliens are referred to affectionately as "them big gorilla-wolf motha fuckas," and "raining golloums," the script is packed with quirky but very real estate characters like Nick Frost's weed dealer and Luke Treadaway's Brewis, and the kids zoom around their brutalist tower blocks on BMXs with more determination and gusto than E.T's Elliot. But far more than its laughs, the story is used as an opportunity to brilliantly expose the hardships these kids face, as well as their inner humanity.
We first meet lead Moses (John Boyega) and his motley crew in a rather terrifying scene when mugging a nurse called Sam (Jodie Whittaker), but when the aliens invade, they and her begin to work together and recognise that there's more to unite than divide them. Moses is constantly acting as though he's got something to prove and be as tough as possible, but his hard stare also expresses determination and pride to protect his friends and, eventually, Sam. In one beautifully touching scene, she walks through Moses' home, and the reason he's always fighting becomes clear. Noone has ever fought for Moses and people like him, and when the Police come in at the end and bang him in the back of a van even after his heroic acts, that point is driven home even harder. You care about and empathise with these characters, and their situation here says something about the real world, even if the "what if," surrounding it is brilliantly fanciful.
But the only reason you buy any of it is because Carnahan does such a great job bringing both the environment and the invasion to life. It all takes place over the course of one night and was shot on location, and that means you get a real sense of the geography of the place and its deprivation. Also though, the way the aliens are realised - men dressed in dark suits that you can barely make out with their glowy teeth and eyes - makes for an extremely creative use of the lower budget which actually creates creatures with more weight than your average CGI-fest.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: At times, the "drug deal gone wrong," element feels like plot for the sake of plot, but it is arguable that without it the film wouldn't have felt so grounded in reality.
VERDICT: A masterful high-concept story is used to shine a light on very real characters and their world, Joe Carnahan's 'Attack the Block,' is a near-perfect small-budget film with heart and social relevance.