JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

Attack the Block: a visual essay of the film

Attack the Block: As the alien invasion begins, the teens take action around the exterior of the council estate…

…on bikes and mopeds, using the elevated walkways… …shot from ground level as well as…
…through deep vertical space from above, creating sharp diagonals… …and kinetic trajectories of motion, activating the space of the marginal city… …in three dimensions, as Moses and his gang navigate the familiar territory of the estate in order to escape the pursuing monsters.

Not the Banlieue 13 brand of parkour, but it works. Biggz (Simon Howard) has only ever bragged about trying this but here has to do it for real, leaping from a walkway down to the steps below with an alien on his heels.

Moses is arrested by the police who… …like Hi-Hatz (Jumayne Hunter), imagine they have control of the tower block, unaware of (or unconcerned about) the alien invasion.
As the teens run to their flats to gather up weapons, we see the warm interiors of these residential spaces and get a sense of their familial support. Here Pest (Alex Esmail) passes by his grandmother with a baseball bat inside his coat and an arsenal of fireworks in his backpack… …while Jerome (Leeon Jones) grabs up a long-bladed knife from his bedroom and… …Biggz promises his mother to be home in 10 minutes as…
…Dennis (Franz Drameh) leaves his flat with a samurai sword and, at his father’s insistence, the family dog, Pogo (RIP). Moses and his friends, along with Sam, take brief refuge with a group of young women who work together to kill the attacking monsters with a flurry of improvised weapons (wielding a particularly effective ice skate blade) when they crash through the window. In Attack the Block, the masked hooded teenagers of South London public housing initially seems to fit negative media stereotypes, but simultaneously (and cinematically) evoke outlaws and ninjas.
The tower block is equipped with timed light switches at the end of every corridor that give a resident a brief window of illumination to reach their door. Director Cornish uses multiple corridor scenes advancing or receding the light, to allow us a clearer perspective of the gang or to convey the darkening sensation of encroaching threat. Here, the gang moves toward the camera, bringing the light while… …darkness is about to engulf Sam before she decides to return to Moses and his friends and join with them.
Inside Sam’s flat, alliances are formed, where being known inside the block enables survival through community. The teens use their knowledge of the tower block’s design, navigating through elevators... …corridors…
…and stairwells… …to elude the pursuing monsters and to strategize a plan of attack. Sword in hand, with Sam and Brewis (Luke Treadaway) behind him, Moses leads the way. As part of his preparation to play Moses, actor John Boyega watched…
…season 4 of HBO’s The Wire (2002-2008), taking note especially of Michael Lee (Tristan Wild). Moses apologizes to Sam for the night’s earlier mugging. She is having none of it. Moses studies the female alien, her pheromones on his clothing now visible in the UV light of Ron’s weed room. He devises a plan to lead her male cohort into an ambush, therefore taking responsibility for bringing the invasion into the block and endangering his friends and neighbors.
Sam attempts to convince Moses not to leave the weed room. On the other side of the door are a dozen deep-black alien predators but… …he does it anyway as he… …straps the dead female alien to his back and with sword in hand, prepares to make a run for it…
…as Pest fires rockets into the mass of black monsters, Moses leaps over them and… …hits the wall at the top of the stairwell, with glowing fangs biting at him from behind. Joe Cornish calls this Moses’ “hero run” as…
…Moses leads the monsters through the interior spaces of the tower block. After setting off a gas explosion in his kitchen and incinerating the last of the alien invaders, Moses leaps out the window, grasping the Union Jack—his flag—as he hangs from his balcony. Under the light of the police helicopter, Moses pulls himself up by the flag as…
…his shocked neighbors look up at him from below. The police finally enter the war zone, finding Moses in the bloody lift. Still unaware of the alien presence in the tower block, they assume he is behind the evening’s deadly events.
Moses is taken out to a waiting police van, while his community strongly disagrees… Pest: “Moses saved the planet. He saved the planet from alien invasion. He’s a hero. He’s a legend!” Biggz: “Hey, why do you always arrest the wrong people? Moses is a hero. Don’t you get it? He saved the block.”
Sam: “Those boys over there, the ones you’re arresting, I know them. They’re my neighbors. They protected me.” Crowd: “Moses! Moses!” Inside the police van, Pest: “Moses, bruv, can you hear that? That’s for you, man.”
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