Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Block Party

Let's be honest - much like the red squirrel, and well-mannered children, the high-concept movie is rarely seen alive and well on our shores any more.

This great nation once spent the best part of the 20
th century knocking out naughty nudge-nudge comedies, Gothic horror movies, super spy epics and the like. The high class of our studios, staff and tea led us to become the address of choice for the average Spielberg-Lucas popcorn purveyor during the initial age of the blockbuster, especially since the studio system in Hollywood had thrown in the towel and their dream-factories largely plowed into parking lots.

Take a gander at our present day multiplexes, and that era seems to have existed in another world, let alone another generation. Aside from a handful of recent examples, genre flicks are a thing of British cinema's past - unless you consider "
Po'boy loves ballet instead of working down t'mine" a prime example of high conceptuality.

To a great extent what remains of our "film industry" has spent the better part of this generation like a NOW compilation, replaying recent hits by spewing out one
unwatchable mockney-gangsta scuzzfest or posh-chap pratfaller after another in the vain hope of a winning roll of the dice.

So the idea of
someone in the UK getting the opportunity to make sci-fi horror that plays like the Warriors versus Alien seemed a bit more far fetched than the film's concept itself, which isn't to suggest in any way, wasn't a doozy in the first place:

Inner City versus Outer Space. An example of fine genre thinking in a nutshell.

Well guess what - against all odds, that film has been made, and by a someone who has proved to be the titanic cinematic talent they have long since threatened, but were far too lazy (in his own words) to be - Joe Cornish.

In a genuine case of believing the hype - Attack the Block is the movie we all wanted it to be - if, like me, you were wanting it to be genuinely flipping marvellous.

Paying tribute to the genre classics of our youth without plagiarising, Attack the Block goes toe-to-toe with American action movies whilst remaining a resolutely British film - bereft of the pathetic pandering to overseas audiences that immediately cheapens any movie. This is cinema to celebrate.

Jumping off from a genuine experience of a late-night mugging,
Cornish's film asks the question of what exactly would happen if aliens landed on a South London estate, and how the tabloid view of aggressive, violent, feral and territorial teenage gang members would fair against extra-terrestrial adversaries who reflected those facets back at them (with the addition of massive mouths full of day-glo teeth, to boot).

It used to be that genre film was the de rigueur outlet for up-and-coming film-makers to learn and ply their trade, since exploitation movies could be made for six-pence-ha'penny as long as they included blood, bullets and a few boobs. Since producers cared not a jot what else was included alongside these sleazier aspects, the low budgets of these films would allow some of the finer film-makers license to introduce a touch of social commentary into their work - something missing in these days of contemptuous direct-to-dvd crap featuring shitty CGI-octopuses.

With a cast and crew featuring many first timers, Cornish utilises them all to create a work that at once seems fresh but familiar, showing an astute understanding of the give and take relationship between film-maker and viewer when it comes to what you do or don't show. Rather than spray a
CGI money-hose on the proceedings, clever use of in-camera effects and on-set aliens creates an energy and immediacy seriously lacking in the majority of by-the-numbers big-budget bloat-fests we're presented with these days.

Taking a leaf out of the films gorged on in his youth, Cornish has produced a worthy successor to the likes of Gremlins, Goonies and Ghostbusters - a home-grown, rollicking roller coaster that - like last years Scott Pilgrim - deserves to become a cult classic for this generation. It'll be a crime if the poster from this film doesn't immediately start to adorn student bedroom walls up and down the nation.

Kind of makes me wish I was 14 again so I could experience that rush of
inexplicable, all-encompassing joy from an adventure that could happen just around the corner. In truth, it's fantastic that someone from my generation of video-shop drop-outs has produced a film that takes a great concept and runs with it, whilst thoughtfully dealing with some very real issues with aplomb.

You should already be aware by now that Adam & Joe are kings of all media - but Attack the Block proves Cornish has the potential to become one of
the genre film-makers of his generation. It's no-joke that our film industry desperately needs a few more people who want to make great entertainment, as opposed to just wanting to "make films".


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