Note: We’ve republished our earlier Attack The Block review to coincide with the film’s release.

One day in the near future, you’ll probably be able to own Attack the Block action figures. Not lame ones like you see for the typical Hollywood blockbuster, I’m talking the cool ones reserved for the true cult classics. NECA or McFarlane toys. Detailed likenesses with accessories. Real geek stuff. Writer/director Joe Cornish‘s feature debut about a London alien invasion is that kind of movie. Small, but incredibly well made and fun, it’s destined to elicit the kind of nostalgia that’ll make fans want to own and display tiny replicas of its protagonists and antagonists. And, really, is there a better endorsement than that? Read our full review after the jump.

In Attack the Block, a group of young, south London hoodlums take it upon themselves to battle invading aliens in and around their apartment building called “The Block.” And while the premise seems straightforward, it’s far from it. Right off the bat, Cornish does the unthinkable and cuts his legs out from under him. The audience is primed for a movie about kids saving the world only to find out the kids – Moses, Pest, Dennis, Biggz and Jerome – are assholes. We shouldn’t like them. But when the first alien falls to Earth and the group goes after it, it begins Attack the Block‘s battle for redemption. Cornish sets an incredibly brave goal for himself: immediately make the main characters unlikable and then hope the story and personalities win the audience over by the end.

Those personalities are developed in tandem with the group putting together the pieces of the alien invasion. Plot and character development, working hand in hand. Both are also tied in with “The Block” itself as secondary characters interacting with the kids, and a quick glimpse inside an apartment, convey information faster than a long expository monologue ever could.

Stakes steadily raise as people live, people die, more and more aliens keep coming, and all the while the movie builds like a crescendo, never wasting a opportunity to elicit an emotion. But though Attack the Block is about aliens, it’s not just a sci-fi film. There are moments of horror, comedy, action and even a hint of romance. Blending all these genres into one, tightly wound story while continually building tension is the second best thing about the film.

The best thing about Attack the Block is the characters. Though many of them don’t have as much to do as others, each character is unique and interesting. Cornish was obviously very deliberate when distinguishing each person’s look, speech, attitude and back story and it pays off. If the characters weren’t quirky and relatable, the action happening around them wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic.

But while the film provides a huge amount of exciting, fun, frightening, funny and adrenaline pumping moments, it’s one glaring fault is that it always feels like a fat guy in a little coat. There’s the constant, almost overwhelming, feeling that this story, these characters and these effects need to bust out. Cornish’s ambition is certainly a positive but it also hangs over the film like a cloud. Each and every scene is begging for more. That’s not to say in that Attack the Block doesn’t deliver, it does, it just feels consistently constricted.

What Attack the Block lacks in scope, however, it more than makes up for in sheer passion. That’s why it’s destined for a life on the shelves of fans everywhere.

/Film rating: 8 out of 10

Attack the Block opens May 13 in the United Kingdom and was recently purchased by Screen Gems for United States distribution. It has yet to be receive a release date.

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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