Review: VS
October 25, 2011
365 Days of Sci-Fi #289
October 25, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Attack the Block

 

BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Studio Canal / Film4 / Sony Pictures
MSRP: $22.99
RATED: R
RUNNING TIME: 88 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Behind the Block: An elaborate doc on the making of the film, from casting all the way to wrapping
  • Creature Feature: A great featurette on how the creatures were created as well as the rigors of being a man-in-suit playing a beast that walks on all fours – by far the disc’s most interesting extra
  • Meet the Gang: A rundown featurette introducing you to the cast of Attack the Block with some personal background on many of the players
  • Unfilmed Action: Storyboarded sequences that never rolled in front of a camera
  • That’s a Rap: Some of the cast members screwing around and having fun on set
  • Junior Commentary w/ Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Actors John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Simon Howard, and Leeon Jones
  • Senior Commentary w/ Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Actors Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, and Nick Frost
  • Executive Commentary w/ Writer/Director Joe Cornish and Executive Producer Edgar Wright

The Pitch

Rabid aliens reign down from the sky and decide to make a go of it in a South London apartment complex, much to the dismay of the street-hardened kids who live there. Chaos and blood soon follow.

The Humans

Joe Cornish (writer/director), John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadaway, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost

The Nutshell

88 minutes of awesome. When a group of young street toughs are attacked by an alien in the streets of South London, they do what comes naturally: kill it and take it back to their apartment complex (the titular Block). It isn’t long before more ferociously terrifying beasts with opaque black hair and glowing teeth find their way to the Block and begin inflicting their own brand of pain on its inhabitants. Resigned to protect their home turf, the kids grab fireworks, baseball bats and a samurai sword in an effort to combat this growing threat.

The Lowdown

Attack the Block is that special sort of film that feels comfortable like a warm pair of slippers, yet wholly unique. When I reviewed Attack for GUY back in May, I struggled with giving it the perfect 10. Not because the film didn’t deserve it, I was concerned that I was blowing my filmic load all over the first movie I was ever asked to put a number on.

Over time that 10 began to fuck with me a little. I began wondering if Attack would hold up on a second viewing, or if it was really a film worthy of being called one of the year’s best. I see a lot of movies in my line of work, and over time memory fades a bit. No way could Attack the Block hold up under the scrutiny of time, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you Attack the Block holds up on its second viewing. And its third. Also its fourth. Now, after seeing the film five times I can finally admit that I’m every bit as transfixed today as I was at that first initial screening back in May.

Admittedly, a part of that has to do with the era I grew up in – mesmerized by creature-feature effects-laden fare like Gremlins and Critters. Inspired in part by that avenue of cinema, the film speaks at the soul of my inner film-obsessed child. There’s a tangibility to the effects here that I haven’t seen in some time – a practicality and craftsmanship that’s been limited or lost in this era of eye-assaulting CGI. Attack the Block is the first film in a long time where I feel like I could reach out and feel the monster, similar to how I felt the first time I saw E.T. or Gremlins. There’s a real weight and presence to the monsters that these actors react to, and it makes you feel all the more closer to their world.

The UK's dental epidemic extends well beyond humans apparently.

And what a world it is. I love the way that Cornish shoots the Block, playing to a very stringent set of rules and angles. What it amounts to is that the Block itself becomes a character, one that you never feel lost in – allowing you to accompany the characters on this journey.

Finally, a cast anchored by John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker keep what’s often a surreal film grounded in some semblance of reality. Cornish did a lot of research into the slang and speak of real kids in South London and wanted real kids to play these parts. It truly feels like the actors inform the characters and I’d be curious to see if the interplay in the film reads nearly as well on the written page. There’s a gamesmanship and reporte between the characters that’s wholly necessary to buy into the film. It’s made all the more refreshing that some of these characters are met with real consequences and real ends.

It’s not the first time a debuting director nailed their first picture so spectacularly but, having the opportunity to speak to Cornish when I was at New York Comic Con last weekhe attributes it in part to the amount of time a lot of directors are afforded on their first picture. In many cases, first-time directors have years to refine their ideas before their picture actually gets greenlit and fast-tracked into production. It’s clear that Attack the Block was a film that Cornish had been envisioning for some time.

Its box office take in the United States wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but Attack the Block is exactly the kind of film that finds its legs on a medium like Blu-ray. This is a film that needs to be championed, and if you’re lucky enough to have seen it then you already know why. For those late to the party, there’s no time like the present.

The Package

Cornish put a lot of work into his labor of love, and that extends to the Blu-ray as well. First and foremost: three separate feature length commentaries that provide all-encompassing insight into the feature. Strongest of all is the Executive Commentary featuring Cornish and Edgar Wright, not surprising given the pedigree in the room.

Behind the Block is a great making-of feature that covers everything from casting on through to the finished product. My favorite extra by far is Creature Feature – a 15 minute featurette explaining exactly how the creatures were brought to life. For die-hard practical effects fans like myself, it’s the genre-cinema equivelent to porn. Unfilmed Action is another feature worth checking out, as it sheds some light on scenes that were storyboarded but never filmed.

The picture is high-quality 1080p, customary for Blu-ray. My biggest concern upon reviewing the disc would be that the sound wouldn’t hold up in the jump to home video, but DTS-HD Master Audio goes a long way in assuaging those concerns. Point being, the film looks and sounds as brilliant as it did in the theater. Respect.

Rating: 
★★★★★

Out of a Possible 5 Stars