Five Go Mad in Brixton

In the movie ET, you may recall, the titular alien touched down in a forest bordering a suburban California sprawl, and was sheltered by an angsty tween from nasty men with guns torches. But what if he’d landed in Brixton instead? And wasn’t here to sniff out a hundred varieties of moss for the Betelgeuse branch of Notcutts?

That’s the premise of the new movie Attack the Block, written and directed by Joe Cornish – once of nineties Channel 4’s  Adam and Joe show, now of tens BBC Radio 6 Music’s Adam and Joe show, and it seems a proper grown-up film-maker.

The stars of the film are most certainly not grown up, though. They’re almost unintelligibly young, with their strange clothes and their loud music and HAVE YOU UNDERSTOOD A WORD THEY’VE SAID YET? These YOUNG PEOPLE, they don’t SPEAK PROPERLY these days. THAT’S NOT DANCING, THAT’S JUST JUMPING UP AND DOWN. Have I had my dinner, Doreen? I have, haven’t I? I have, yes. I thought I had. A lovely dinner. Ooh, it was a lovely dinner. What was it? Curry? I don’t understand curry. IT’S JUST MUCK. MUCK ON A PLATE. I’m given to believe she stands on a BOX.

Anyway. The urban dialect of the younger cast, all ya get me and allow it and isnit and teeth-sucking, takes a little adjustment for those like me unfamiliar with the patois. You have to hear your way into it, pick up the rhythm, feel the force flowing through you. Before long you’re jiving like a native – wicked, chum, comprendez? Booyakashah of Iran.

Incidentally I have just bought a hoody. From Her Majesty’s The Gap shop. I know. Fashion. Icon.

Anyway. The film! Yes, the film.

Attack the Block is a coming-of-age film. Well, more a coming-of-rage film. The main characters are a gang of rufty-tufty teens, led by a boy called Moses, who spend their evenings terrorising the estate with their bikes and parkas and knives. On bonfire night they encounter a most unusual visitor: not a bewildered American tourist, nor a taxi driver willingly south of the river after 10pm, but something far stranger and not of this world. Their turf – their estate, their block – becomes a battleground, a castle under siege from alien invasion. Their universe expands a little; they do a little growing up. Hijinks ensue.

The film has a refreshing lack of grown-ups wagging fingers. Most adult characters veer either to the stoner or psychopath ends of the spectrum, leaving the gang to tackle the unwanted visitors in their own special way. It’s a bit like a Famous Five movie written by William S. Burroughs.

Joe Cornish coaxed pretty impressive performances from the cast, even the youngest members. The dialogue was, apparently, checked and independently verified as accurate for the disaffected mopers of today’s Broken Britain. Give it ten years and it’ll need subtitles, mind. I can’t imagine it’ll play in the US without them, unless audiences are given crib sheets on the way in or screened for age.

It’s Cornish’s first feature film as a director, but you wouldn’t know it. All those years of bedroom-based film-making with Adam Buxton certainly paid off. It’s fast-paced, nicely plotted, and I expect a strong candidate for Best British Film next year. Ya get me?

Avaragado’s rating: curry


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