DANIEL OF THE YEAR | In Honduras, many residents feel trapped by poverty, violence, and addiction. Michael Miller has spent two decades hitting the streets and devoting his life to some of the country’s youngest and most vulnerable
When trouble comes-pirates, say, or perhaps angry ninjas-you really want to side with people who know how to throw a punch. In this vein, the surprisingly delightful British film Attack the Block introduces aliens who shun the usual pretty suburbs, remote fields, and Western deserts, instead landing smack in the heart of South London's ghetto. Battle-hungry inner-city denizens aren't about to surrender their Block easily.
As the movie opens, Moses (John Boyega) and his team of teen hoodlums bluster through their first real crime, mugging neighbor Sam (a woman, played by Jodie Whittaker) at knifepoint. They are interrupted by a meteor bearing the first of many huge, wolf-like aliens. The vicious creatures infiltrate the tenement known as The Block, forcing Moses and Sam into an unlikely alliance fighting to defend their home. Turns out, the boys needed only an alien invasion to turn their thirst for adventure from thuggery to heroism and their victim mentality to responsibility.
For a movie filled with funny moments and low-budget, puppetish aliens, the film packs a lot of insight into its premise. It respects the characters, primarily the boys who see their only path to manhood in crime, and never becomes preachy. Yet it shows Moses stepping into real leadership, taking responsibility for mistakes and becoming sacrificial.
Created by the same team that created the spoof zombie hit Shaun of the Dead, the movie is rated R, mostly for the ghetto drug culture and incessant crude language. It has some moments of suspense and gore and some verbal innuendo but no visual sexuality.
With fine acting, especially from Boyega, and a brilliantly ambiguous twist that will appeal differently to the suburbs and the 'hood, the quirky little film overcomes its lack of big budget effects to be very good indeed.