Can a movie taking place in the grim council estates of South London, where aliens have landed and are viciously attacking hapless residents—can such a movie be called “light-hearted”? The answer is “yes” if the movie is Attack the Block, a sci-fi flick by Joe Cornish. Noting that the movie was one of the New York Times’ Don’t Miss Movies You Probably Missed, I sat down to watch and was soon alternately screaming and laughing—how fun is that?
The premise is that a gang headed by a brooding youth named Moses is faced with aliens who have invaded on Bonfire Night, an annual celebration in Britain with fireworks. In all the hubbub, the police don’t notice the meteor-like balls of fire that land in the projects, so the kids are faced with fighting the aliens themselves. Part of the humor of the situation is that the kids have grown up in such grim environment, and are so used to be harassed by cops and other gangs, that the aliens are just another bad-a… thing to deal with. Gathering clubs, knives, and guns, they go after the aliens, who have glow-in-the dark fangs. There are some sub-plots involving another gang, and some mellow drug dealers, but basically the film is a fast-paced, exciting fight between the kids and the aliens. There is an unexpected sweetness to this movie, as we see the kids transformed from a seemingly hardened street gang, to being revealed as vulnerable human beings who are discovering that they are capable of something better. And the aliens, who have been described as “gorilla-wolf things,” look more like Newfoundland dogs to me, albeit with glowing eyes and fangs—but not slimy or scary. So this isn’t “Alien” with its relentless alien horror, but rather has a “Ghostbusters” vibe.
One quibble: the speech of the gang members was sometimes really hard to understand—not only was it a South London accent, but it was gang lingo. But the story is straightforward enough to understand even if you miss a few lines.