Greetings from South by Southwest! The festival this year has made one thing abundantly clear: I’m really, really old. Never is this more clear than when I start falling asleep during afternoon screenings. Or worse, when I wake up the morning after a midnight screening and think, “God, I’m gonna need a nap at some point.” But ‘Attack the Block,’ which screened twice (at midnight) this week, is worth staying awake for. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a new genre classic.
The film was written and directed by Joe Cornish, who might be most recently known as Edgar Wright’s writing partner. (They did a polish on Spielberg’s ‘Tin Tin’ movie together, and wrote a draft of ‘Ant-Man’ for Marvel.) He really makes a splash here. The film is whip smart and hilarious and breathlessly paced. It’s kind of like ‘The Goonies’ or ‘Gremlins’ in that it’s genuinely scary at times, but mostly just rollicking fun.
The young cast, composed almost entirely of unknowns (though Nick Frost shows up for a bit as a genial drug dealer), is absolutely amazing. Some people might have a problem understanding the kids’ thick London gangsta speech. After my screening, Cornish said that he liked the fact that the speech was a little bit off. He said it was intentional, and compared it to the way that characters speak in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. In that light, it works even better.
The monsters in ‘Attack the Block’ should be praised, too. They’re wonderfully designed (by Cornish and the folks who concoct Guillermo del Toro’s creatures). What’s more, they’re practical! Yes! “Puppets were used in the filming of this motion picture.” It’s a real thrill.
‘Attack the Block’ is easily one of my favorite films of the festival so far. I really, really loved it. And I loved hearing the audience react to it – screaming, laughing, applauding at all the right moments. It’s baffling that the film has come to the festival without a distributor. (The way things are panning out, it might leave without one too.) This is on par with (or possibly even excelling) Wright’s own ‘Shaun of the Dead’ for that kind of giddy, goosey, genre movie fun. It’s not a spoof; it’s just a different take on familiar territory – as sincerely told as any mainstream “serious” sci-fi movie. It just has laughs.
As much as a rollicking rollercoaster the movie is, special consideration needs to be paid to the music, a significant amount of which was composed by British dance-pop pioneers Basement Jaxx. They add groove to the film’s considerable thrills. If you don’t walk out with a Jaxx-assisted spring in your step, you might be asleep. Or maybe you’re just getting too old.