The Quarantine Stream: 'Attack The Block' Is An Underrated Gem Of A Genre Movie

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they've been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)The Movie: Attack the BlockWhere You Can Stream It: Pluto TVThe Pitch: John Boyega, in his star-making role, plays Moses, the young leader of a group of South London teenagers who mugs a nurse (a pre-Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker) on her way home from work. But the mugging is interrupted by a meteorite that crashes from the sky, revealing a big-alien-gorilla-wolf thing that attacks Moses before he quickly kills it. But Moses' unexpected victory brings about a whole host of new problems, as hundreds of stronger, bloodthirsty aliens soon follow to invade their block.Why It's Essential Quarantine Viewing: When Attack the Block hit theaters in 2011, it received little attention apart from a few critical raves hailing it as one of the best alien invasion movies of the decade and a cult following that would passionately recommend it to anyone remotely interested in genre movies. When John Boyega became a global superstar through the Star Wars franchise, it didn't receive much more attention. But Attack the Block suddenly, deservedly, finds itself in the spotlight again this week thanks to an impassioned, moving speech by Boyega that made the headlines and turned people on to what a powerhouse the young actor is.

Like many, I was inspired by Boyega's powerful Black Lives Matter speech and turned to the film that first put the young actor on everyone's radar. I actually missed Attack the Block when it came out in 2011 and watched it for the first time last year, when I was blown away by what a perfect, energized alien invasion movie it was. Directed by Joe Cornish with a stylish flair that could rival Edgar Wright (and indeed, bears his fingerprints, as Wright executive produced the film and took Cornish on as his protegé).

But despite the style and the Spielbergian elements that would naturally come to mind whenever you pit any kids on bikes against aliens, there's a grim, street-level element to Attack the Block that grounds it more than most genre films. Moses is a young black teenager who all too eagerly follows the path set for him — of drug dealing, of being branded nothing more than a criminal — immersed in the toxic masculinity that both props him up as the de facto leader of his little gang and gets him quickly apprehended by police once everything goes to hell. He displays a sad awareness of this fate, remarking, "Government probably bred those things to kill black boys. First they sent in drugs, then they sent guns and now they're sending monsters in to kill us. They don't care man. We ain't killing each other fast enough."

It's an eye-opening monologue from Boyega, who would repeat much of the same things in his real-life speech. And it's part of the astonishing way that Cornish turns our sympathies around and makes us re-evaluate the way we think of our heroes and villains in the story. Cornish was actually inspired to write Attack the Block after he was mugged by a group of London teenagers, similarly to how Whittaker's character is mugged in the beginning. His musings on what led the teens down that path would result in Attack the Block, a film that forces us to examine our preconceived notions about the hero narrative, getting us to root for a group of teens who, in any other movie, would be the first to be killed by the aliens. It's also a hell of an action film.