[I generally don't put spoiler warnings on my reviews: not because I don't generally divulge spoilers, but because I don't generally review newer movies. But seeing as Attack the Block is a generally newish release, I thought I'd give you a little advance warning—if you are the kind of person for whom spoilers are generally an issue.]
A defenseless woman carefully navigates her dingy London neighborhood. Fireworks continually bombarding the pitch-black sky, this section of London resembles nothing if not a war zone. The woman is focused on getting off the street as quickly as possible; she just needs to get home. When hooded, masked youths surround her—slowly at first—they are so efficient that she is left with no opportunity for egress. At knife point, she is parted with her meager belongings. It is only when a firework (?) bombards an adjacent car that she can use the opportune diversion to escape.
As we soon learn, the firework was in fact a defenseless alien, which soon escapes (E.T.-like) into a shed...and then the kids murder it.
And these kids are the heroes.
When a storm of bloodthirsty aliens soon bombards the area, the woman is left with no other choice than to join the kids as they attempt to eradicate the menace.
If you've listened to enough of my podcast episodes and read enough of my reviews, you are no doubt aware by now that I love hard-to-love protagonists. 'You wanna root for me? Fuck you; I'm gonna make it as hard as possible for you to do that.' I don't know; maybe this says more about my personality than any of the specific movies I've reviewed, but I find these characters far more intriguing than any dime-a-dozen hero you can throw my way.
And I ain't talking about gruff protagonists who are actually just big softies underneath. I'm talking about real, complex, troubled heroes. Just like the kids in Attack the Block. This movie works so well because the protagonists are never made unnecessarily cute. They aren't victims begging us to love them. Their actions are never shrugged off as the inevitable byproducts of broken homes—though this element certainly is present. Nay, these kids are accountable for their actions: they are flawed people living under harsh circumstances who make terrible choices.
Of course, it should be noted that these kids are redeemed by the end of the picture. (This wouldn't be a proper Spielberg homage if it didn't give us at least some warm fuzzy feelings.) And, of course, the kids and the woman reach an eventual detente—though not through any schmaltzy cheap Hollywood mechanism, but because of grudging acceptance. Will everyone love these kids? Probably not. Many will, some won't. And the movie knows this—that is, if movies were sentient.