Some movies are out to make statements and are meant to stand on their own; others are genre exercises, taking familiar movie tropes and working them in a different key, like John Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things.” Some movies are obvious, intentional tributes to other films; others sort of just end up that way.
“Attack the Block” is the latter or both. It’s a reworking of the alien-invasion genre, imagining if the aliens only invaded one apartment complex in the ghettos of London. Because nobody pays attention to what goes on in the slums, the alien invasion goes unnoticed by the rest of London, not to mention the rest of the world. It’s up to a gang of teenagers to fight off the aliens and save mankind from destruction.
In that way, “Attack the Block” is also a homage to Steven Spielberg’s movies of the ’80s, exactly the same films that “Super 8” paid homage to earlier this summer. The difference between this film and that one is that “Attack the Block” doesn’t have to work as hard. I enjoyed “Super 8,” but it was so determined to recreate/recapture that “E.T.” magic, it kind of made just want to watch “E.T.” instead. By reimagining– replacing the 12 year old suburbanites we have 15 year old hoods — instead of attempting to recreate, “Attack the Block” gives itself some room to breathe, relax and find its own pace.
OK, so it’s not exactly “E.T.” in the ghetto. The aliens aren’t friendly; they’re out to kill, and “Attack the Block” certainly takes its cues from scarier alien movies in its action scenes. But what makes this fun and entertaining is its almost complete lack of responsible adults, and that’s certainly borrowed from Spielberg. It’s a coming-of-age story even as it’s an alien invasion flick. It’s a thrill, it’s entertaining, and it’s one of the most purely enjoyable action films I’ve seen in a while.