The Socio-Political Messages in 'Attack the Block'
The beginning of Attack the Block is pretty typical. Teenage street gang mugs white woman; lets all feel outraged and cynical at how typically they are behaving. Everyone have a good rant about how unsurprised we are that a bunch of poor, mostly black inner city kids would spend their evenings putting knives in people’s faces instead of playing FIFA like normal human beings…Well we all indulged in a bit of bad language just like the muggee did as she was soothed with a glass of water. The kids show no remorse really, in fact Moses manages to look quite evil as he says “allow it”, letting the nurse ran off after they’ve relieved her of all her valuables. (He also looks really hot, but that’s a story for another day). The director did a bang up job of depicting the criminality of these boys in this one scene. The impression one gets is of delinquents with no conscience, robbing a poor defenceless (white) woman who is just trying to get home. The subtleties of race relations are shown with the assumptions made here. The first assumption is the one the boys make – that white woman equals rich, not ‘one of us’ but ‘one of them’. This is reinforced when Moses tells her that if they had known she was from the hood they wouldn’t have robbed her. But because of her appearance, they had already made certain assumptions about her. She also made assumptions about them; that they were dangerous criminals who would kill her if she resisted. Probably because the leader was big and black and masked. Turns out he was just a scared fifteen year old boy with no parents.
So then, an alien falls from the sky and drops in a car which Moses promptly decides to rob. This further reinforces to us the criminal and opportunistic nature of this guy. I’m sure we all had sneers on our faces like, “Where was this boy brought up? In a barn?” Nope, he was brought up in The Ends by an absentee uncle. People underestimate the influence that being present in your children’s lives has. Moses was the extreme obviously, and the leader, because he was alone. But all the boys were slightly neglected, even if it wasn’t deliberate. Pest had a mother who was clearly trying, but failing, to keep him in line. Biggz had a grandmother too old to keep him in line. Jerome seemed to have the most conventional family, with a sister doing exams, but where were Mam and Dad? Out working late? Asleep? Dennis had someone who was clearly harsh with him, who he was obedient to; but clearly not someone who he had conversations with. The harsh parent who says jump and you say how high? And that’s the sum total of your interactions. Clearly there were some parental deficits involved here. The more reason why these boys clung to each other with such tenacity and loyalty. So when Moses says, “I’m going to kill that thing.” Nobody says, “Okay mate, you go ahead, I’m going home to do something more constructive.” No, they all follow without question. Hmm, so apart from being just a criminal, clearly Moses is the kind of criminal with a force of personality. Notice also how much more talkative he is when it’s just him and his boys as compared to when other people are around. Is it a matter of trust? He is at his most authentic self when he is with these other boys. The other boys also have two personalities or maybe three. The one where they are with friends, the one when strangers are around which consists of a lot of mean mugging, and the one where they are with authority figures in which a lot of lies are told. Does this sound familiar to anyone with teenage children? It’s not just in the inner city you know.
Too Much Madness for One Text!
This is My Block; Get Me?
So they kill the little alien with the involvement of a lot of fireworks and then carry their prize home to show it off. They meet the girls, and it’s obvious that the leader of the girls is just that into Moses, and maybe he’s into her too. He certainly wants her to know he killed the alien which attacked him. A funny yet sad moment commences when one of the girls says she doesn’t want to get Chlamydia from the alien thus demonstrating a certain regrettable ignorance on how sexually transmitted diseases are passed from person to person. Regrettable because it’s very likely that they are sexually active – or is this an assumption I am making because of who these girls are? For all I know, she could have heard about Chlamydia in a news report. In spite of this, the girls prove to be quite able to hold their own. These girls are no damsels in distress; they’re not aesthetic props to round out the character of the males. Oh no, these are ninjas in their own right – quite able to kick the ass of the aliens and kill one of them. They also make it quite clear that they’re not willing to shoulder all of Moses’ burdens. If he brought this trouble on himself, it’s up to him to fix it. They are the ones in fact, who bring it home to him, that it is his responsibility to fix the mess he made. Yay, feminists – or rather that’s how real women actually are and I applaud Mr Cornish for keeping it real.
Enter HiHat and Ron, the former who should come with a written warning on the dangers of prolonged drug use. He is the anti-Moses – a man solely concerned with himself, his wants, his needs, himself...to the exclusion of all else. His absorption with enforcing his place as Head of Everything is what got him killed. He could have survived quite well, like Ron did, by just keeping out of the way; or by joining in the battle and fighting with Moses…but no. This is his block; get him? The aliens surely did.
Who is Moses?
Quit Acting Like Such. A. Pussy and take the Poll
What was your favourite 'The Ends' slang?
There is one scene (just one you ask?) which brings tears to my eyes every time I see it and it is the one where HiHat points a gun at Moses after they accidentally ran into him with the police van. There is a simultaneous, without any hesitation, drawing of weapons by every single one of Moses gang. We’ve already established that Moses leadership skills rival those of Jamie Fraser at the height of Culloden but let’s face it, boys tend to be a cowardly lot unless sufficiently motivated to not be. When faced with danger, their instinct is to run, hide, duck, get.out.of.the.way. These are the facts, the male of the species is inherently selfish, and looks out primarily for number one; unless sufficiently motivated to not do so. So in the light of this knowledge, I want you to appreciate how remarkable it is that nobody ran, nobody ducked, nobody even stood there gaping like a fool. They all, as one, drew their weapons and prepared to defend their handcuffed leader against the threat from this crazy drug dealer. This scene was made even more powerful by the way that Moses was rescued from the police van. Clearly he wasn’t expecting it, he would have understood if they left him to his fate. He was resigned to them leaving him there. But then they didn’t leave him – Dennis came for him – scary aliens and police notwithstanding. Sniff. (By the way, has there been a hotter dynamic duo than Dennis and Moses? They’re like…Captain America and the Falcon…just…no words).
So then the aliens kill Dennis (excuse me while I wail) and they killed Jerome and Moses was ready to die so that they don’t kill anyone else. The woman they robbed had gone from Mark to Friend by this time, and Moses apologised and made Pest return the ring. Even though Pest was low key flirting with her the entire time, he was quite annoyed at this. So the honour of Moses is not something that just permeates the air -that’s why he’s the leader- he decides what’s right, and what’s wrong. The funny thing is, although the nurse was sceptical of the police even coming to follow up on her mugging, she still wants to call the authorities to deal with this. She trusts that the authorities will do the right thing by them. Moses and his friends though, see the authorities as simply another kind of monster just as eager to attack them as the aliens. Whose fault is this though? This disconnect between authority and inner city life. Why does being a minority and poor equal criminal to authorities? Where did this start? When? What can be done to change this?
This is my block; get it?
Say "Aliens" One More Time
Nominated BAFTA Film Award Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer Joe Cornish (director/writer)
Nominated Saturn Award Best International Film
Won Austin Film Critics Award Best Original Score Steven Price
Best First Film Joe Cornish
Nominated Austin Film Critics Award Best Film
Won Black Reel Best Actor John Boyega
Outstanding Foreign Film
Nominated Black Reel Best Breakthrough Performance John Boyega
Best Original Score Steven Price
Best Ensemble Nina Gold (Casting Director)
Nominated British Independent Film Award Most Promising Newcomer John Boyega
Nominated Douglas Hickox Award Joe Cornish
Nominated COFCA AwardBest Overlooked Film Joe Cornish
Nominated Empire Award Best British Film
Best Male Newcomer John Boyega
Nominated Evening Standard British Film Award Most Promising Newcomer John Boyega
Won Chainsaw Award Best Makeup/Creature FX Mike Elizalde Paul Hyett Spectral Motion 2nd place Chainsaw Award Best Score Steven Price Basement Jaxx 3rd place Chainsaw Award Best Limited-Release/Direct-to-Video Film Best Screenplay Joe Cornish Tied for third place with Simon Rumley for Red White & Blue (2010). Nominated Chainsaw Award Best Supporting Actress Jodie Whittaker
Won Best European/North - South American FilmAudience Award Joe Cornish
Nominated Fright Meter Award Best Horror Movie Best Director Joe Cornish
Best Screenplay Joe Cornish
Nominated IGN AwardBest Sci-Fi Movie Best Comedy Movie
Nominated Image Award Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture
Nominated ALFS AwardBreakthrough British Filmmaker Joe Cornish
Young British Performer of the Year John Boyega
Won Audience Award Best Narrative Feature Joe Cornish
Won NYFCO Award Best Debut as Director Joe Cornish
Nominated Best of Puchon Joe Cornish
Won SXSW Competition Award Midnight Feature Award for Best Film Joe Cornish
Nominated Bradbury Award Joe Cornish (writer/director)
Won Audience Award Best Feature Film Joe Cornish
Won Best Original SoundtrackBest Music Steven Price
Won Special Prize of the Jury Feature Film Joe Cornish
Won Special Mention Best Production Design Marcus Rowland
Online Critics Award for Best Film Joe Cornish
Won TFCA Award Best First Feature Joe Cornish
2nd place VVFP Award Best First Feature
Nominated Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award Best Film Screenplay Joe Cornish
Best Movie Ever
Call Simon Cowell; Aliens Got Talent
At the end of the day, what will happen to these boys do you think? Sure Moses was a hero on that day, but even so, he was still in handcuffs being taken to jail. The residents of The Ends would go back to their apartments and maybe he would make bail. But he blew up his house, and I bet his uncle would have been pissed if he even came back. So where’s Moses going to live? Very likely, he still ends up on the street, living a life of crime and dying before he attains the age of twenty five. What other hope is there for the Moses’ of this world? Where is the rescue? The truth is it’s a bottomless pit of despair. Unless the entire fabric of society changes and room is made for people like Moses to climb out of the cycle of poverty and crime, we’ll continue to lose a lot of potential heroes to jail, or an early grave. Sucks; doesn’t it?