Saturday, October 29, 2011

Horror Fest 6 Day Two: Attack the Block

Doctor Tom here to ramble for a little bit about Attack the Block. This lovely little Edgar-Wright-produced quasi-Bildungsroman delivers a neat little punch with unlikely protagonists and heroes alongside believable, functional, non-ostentatious invaders-from-outer-space.

A group of teenager no-good-niks, led by the serious and staid Moses (John Boyega), arrives at the onset of the movie, causing mayhem and hijinks from mugging to mild vandalism, and stumble across a landed alien explorer that has smashed in the roof of a car. Not knowing what else to do with it, they cart the smelly, slimy alien corpse to the local druglord, who is more concerned with making his ineffectual record-company-quality beats and pushing product than a potential apocalyptic scenario centered on aliens and the plucky curiosity exhibited by said teenagers about said alien.

Like many films of this ilk, the plot takes the standard course: teenagers find alien, teenagers continue on standard path of running from the cops, witnessing the onslaught of an alien invasion located pretty much entirely within the same tenement complex, paeans to Matthieu Kassovitz, reuniting with a person they wronged and creating a forced team to destroy the momentary alien invasion, losing some friends along the way to the devouring/hungry alien invaders, and the teenagers being wronged and being incarcerated and blamed for all of the carnage and mayhem.

By that, I mean, the invasion is thwarted and the unity of unlikely partners generates a palpable feel-good vibe, but many of those conventions cease then and there. The protagonists are largely black Britons or other marginalized ethnic persons, with a thankfully polychromatic view of representations. The woman mugged by the gang at the outset of the movie (Sam the nurse, played by Jodie Whittaker) returns as a co-protagonist - and does not enter into the role of the redeemer or savior, leaving that to the rag-tag gang. In shout-outs to Kassovitz's La Haine, numerous shots with tricky diegetic/non-diegetic audio (namely when an ultra-stoned upper-crust Londoner shows up with earbuds repeatedly in, contrasted with the gang from La Haine wandering their banlieue), framing aspects, and bits of dialog subtly infiltrate the film, adding a bit to the smoldering, overall reading of the film as an interesting take on race relations in current-day England. Without divulging too many spoilers, no white people show up to "save" or "help" the misbegotten and marginalized; black characters are not shown as monochromatic, and in fact rather than the "black" stock character we see so often in sci-fi and horror films (who is typically the first to go), we maintain a racial diversity and representation all the way through - despite some of the gang's members being eaten along the way. There is an honest reflection of racial interrelations in the ultimate outcome - the white folk are treated by the police authorities at the end of the film like helpless victims hurt by lesser beings, and the colored folk are blamed, but this is despised and demonstrated as contemptible (as well it should be) by the end of the film. While the film never veers too closely into direct political discourse, there is one scene where Sam's boyfriend is revealed to be an aid worker in Ghana; one of the Afro-Briton teens responds "helpin' the children of Britain ain't good enough?" Granted, we're dealing with younger children who, despite street sophistication, probably aren't developmentally able to phrase subtle insults, so this may be in line with a 15-year-old's dismay; provided this is in the context of one of the central kids bleeding profusely amidst the onslaught of killer attack-aliens, I'm questioning why the writers felt this moment was appropriate for it, and whether the writers could have more subtly inserted this rib. At any rate, this one moment stands in relief with the rest of the fairly subdued political commentary - subdued, that is, in relation to giant, pitch-black, all-teeth alien invaders trying to figure out who killed their scout. This last bit, by the way, is solved by our "profoundly stoned" white weed customer who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and in a sense of speaking a bit totemic as the Labour party or the British creative class - filled with knowledge, but too drugged up and concerned for his own skittish welfare to remain stoned to be of much used other than supplying knowledge. All action is initiated by Moses - which itself is a nebulous statement on the state of affairs of the Blacks in England (or really any underrepresented ethnic group), and is ultimately blamed for the problems despite attempting to fix them - and take responsibility for unleashing / killing the original invader. I could write more, but I won't. The end.

Not really. For the somewhat unclarified statements on race relations, the movie was still plenty entertaining and engaging. Now I'm done.

1 comment:

el doctor said...

Apologies for the relative incoherence of this review. I had just finished watching/had been watching A Night to Dismember.