Attack the Block is about a South London teenage gang who defend their council estate from an invasion of aliens. Their block is besieged by males of an alien species after the gang killed a female alien in retribution for injuring their gang leader, Moses. It’s an unusual mix of gritty social realism, mild horror and genuine comedy. I thought it was a brilliant film – both entertaining and thought provoking
One of the best things about the film is the way it depicts the uncomfortable inner city relationships between middle class in-comers and the true locals who really are ‘from round here’. The film opens up with the scene of a nurse, speaking to her mum on her mobile, getting mugged by the gang. Little do they know, she lives on the same block as them. When the nurse ends up working with the gang to fight the aliens, they are bemused when she tells them her boyfriend volunteers for the Red Cross in Africa. ‘Why doesn’t he care about the people of this country?’
The gang’s nonclacent, messed up values where stealing and violence are casually accepted – as normal as ‘playing FIFA’ – are convincingly portrayed. The film does not glorify or gloss over the savageness of the gang’s behaviour. But it does capture the moral ambiguity of how we judge them. This is a tension that I have experienced when living on similar estates: on one hand, they are dangerous criminals to be feared – but on the other hand they are children. The theme of ineffectual and neglectful parenting runs throughout the film and the most poignant moment is when you see Moses’ bedroom who is 15 year old. He might be the intimidating leader of a criminal gang but he still has a spiderman duvet.
The theme that most spoke to me was the chaos that comes from retribution and violence. The climax of the film shows the gang leader’s sorrow about what he has started, and his determination to save the block from the ruthless attackers, even if it means sacrificing himself. There is no simple happy ending – but something of a redemption none the less.