Late to the Party: Attack the Block
While John Boyega’s popularity has exploded since Star Wars came out, a lot of people know him from his first film ‘Attack the Block’. I’ve been meaning to watch this movie for a while, so I figured now was a good time to bite the bullet and actually sit through the whole film.
‘Attack the Block‘ is the story of a group of teenage boys living in ‘The Block’, a council estate in South London. One night they encounter an alien invasion and knowing that no one will believe them they take it upon themselves to save the world from these aliens and not get arrested in the process.
- While the story is a relatively simple one – Aliens need to be stopped from taking over the world – using a different point of view makes the story a much more compelling one. Normally the protagonist would be a rugged, middle-class white guy trying to save the world when America gets attacked and the President asks him for help. Instead the film focuses on a group of ‘thug’ teens and shows that while Mr Whiteman might be able to do whatever he wants, for others the reality is very different. And the film doesn’t shy away from how different this reality is, with references to the teenagers’ lives and their own struggles echoed in the fight against the aliens and how no one seems to believe them. In fact in ‘Attack the Block‘ the white male characters are generally shown as pretty useless, with them hiding for most of the film while the teenagers, kids, women and POC are the ones actually fighting to save the Block.
- On that note, another good thing about ‘Attack the Block’ is that the female characters aren’t damsels in distress that need to be saved. Sam and the teenage girls fight against the aliens that they encounter, and even though they’re obviously quite scared (who wouldn’t be, really?) that doesn’t define them. The representation in this film is really good, and would be one of the main reasons I would recommend this film to others.
- The designs of the aliens are quite distinct compared to mainstream stereotypes of aliens in films. The initial alien they encounter looks pretty generic, which makes the reveal of the others have more of an impact in their ‘other-ness’ – the scene where it’s revealed that what was assumed to be the alien’s eyes were actually some of its glowing teeth is a good example of how a unique design makes for a more interesting and memorable story. At times it did seem a bit obvious that there was a person in a suit, but I feel that the overall design of the aliens made up for it.
- The writing was very well done, with a lot of quotable lines throughout that made me laugh. Based on some of the lines, like when Moses says “Government probably bred those things to kill black boys. First they sent in drugs, then they sent guns and now they’re sending monsters in to kill us. They don’t care man. We ain’t killing each other fast enough. So they decided to speed up the process.” made me assume that the writer was a POC, because it really seemed to show the anger and bitterness that is reminiscent in the Black Lives Matter movement that is happening at the moment. But the writer, Joe Cornish, is white which surprised me, but also disappointed me a little because I’m trying to consume media by a wider variety of authors with more diverse backgrounds.
The Not-So Good
- While I really liked ‘Attack the Block’, it wasn’t perfect. The main issue I had with it was that even though the representation was awesome and there was a bunch of diversity in the characters, none of the white main characters died – only the black boys/men were killed by the aliens while the white characters walked out of the whole thing relatively unscathed. I didn’t realise this straight away, but now that I have it puts a bad taste in my mouth. It might have been a commentary on how white people get away with more in society in general, but I feel like if that is the case it really didn’t need to be said in this film – there are plenty of movies that show that.
So apart from that small complaint, I really liked this movie, and will suggest it to people – the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, and it’s always a good thing to encourage others to watch different stories in different perspectives.
If you have a chance (and you haven’t already seen it) you should check out Attack the Block, it was good afternoon viewing!