Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Attack The Block
For quite a few years I worked with young people in a government welfare agency - primarily teenagers, and often teenagers in crisis. As part of that job I spent a lot of time visiting schools, drop in centres, homeless shelters, prisons and juvenile detention facilities (terrifying places - if you are trying to deal with a wayward teen take them to visit one; talk about scared straight). The biggest issue I ever had with teenagers was their irritating tendency to mumble responses when I spoke to them, making me feel like an old lady because I had to keep saying, "Sorry? Beg your pardon? Can you say that again?"
As soon as I stopped working with teenagers, they started to scare me. If I was walking down the street and I saw a group of young people I would become instantly tense, and if there were any possible way of not having to pass them I would find it. I don't know why - I've never been bothered or harassed by a teenager. I read an article on Cracked a while back that confirmed this was not just me. I think it's something to do with their air of confidence in groups, and the fact that they are (I'm generalising here) so fearless and impulsive. You never really know what teenagers are capable of.
The teens in Attack The Block are the kind you should be afraid of. They are menacing and violent, and the film opens with them robbing a young woman at knife point in a dark street. It's interesting that this film sets up these very unlikeable characters and then turns them into the heroes, and quite successfully. These are definitely the people you want on your side in an alien invasion. And that's exactly what this film is about - aliens attack a council housing estate and the kids battle to save their home and themselves.
There is not a moment wasted - it's lean and fast-moving and takes off running right from the beginning. Little is revealed about the characters, though the leader of the teens, Moses, gets a brief moment that sums up his personal backstory beautifully - it's a lovely, spare use of exposition.
It's lucky there is so much action going on as it's easy to miss plenty of dialogue, thanks to the heavy slang. I don't normally have a problem with accents (English and Scottish family and many years working with migrants and refugees), but I found myself rewinding a few times to catch what was said and it definitely benefits from a repeat viewing. However, missing chunks of dialogue doesn't detract from the story - it's pretty clear what's going on all the way through.
Although it's not strictly a comedy there are quite a few laughs - Nick Frost as a bewildered drug dealer provides many of them. Again, a lot of the comedy is in the throwaway lines of dialogue, which is why it is worth trying to pay attention to what's being said.
I'd never heard of Attack The Block before reading a Top 10 films post on Fruitless Pursuits, and it didn't sound like anything that would be my cup of tea but I had nothing better to do so I gave it a go. I was amazed by how much I loved it - I can't remember the last time I was so completely blown away by a movie (probably True Grit - another Mumbly Joe one).