Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Joe Cornish: Inner City Spillover (Attack the Block)

Attack the Block, Screen Gems, 2011.

The grittier tendencies of 1970s urban B-movies meets the sci-fi youth adventure blockbusters of the 1980s in the wonderful new film, Attack the Block. What director Joe Cornish takes from his pure love for John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 and Walter Hill's The Warriors he blends with a nostalgia for Spielberg's E.T. and its ilk to craft a riveting, kinetic Summer action-adventure which transports us to an alternate Britain engulfed in the tonal pleasures of cinema yesteryear.

The images are drowned in caloric hues mindful of the waking nightmare, and the rhythm of night is hyper-alert and clipped to the ADD of the current generations, yet the themes and narrative are sheer nostalgic wonder. Cornish is a natural at this, and his loving touch is apparent in every frame. His pop-perfection is reminiscent of the similarly cinephilic Edgar Wright, only more far-reaching.

Street gangs, dope dealers, tenement dwellers and company clash in a frenzied firecracker night as bizarre aliens "attack the block". And though the premise is been there, done that, the execution is anything but. The dialogue crackles with intelligence, the framing glows with cinematic love and respect. The cast, led by the steely sensitivity of John Boyega and the glow and warmth of Jodie Whittaker, are simply splendid. The alien creatures are magnificently realized, their obscurity and serviceability a key factor in the streak of wonder indenting the entire enterprise.

Although the coalescence of the structure is not perfect, it nearly is for this type of Atlantic popcorn crowd pleaser. More than minting a bleeding blockbuster, Cornish has announced himself as a wunderkind who can find the heart and soul of cinematic passion beneath a genre much in need of love and care.

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