Attack the Block

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Attack the Block
Attack The Block 2.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byJoe Cornish
Written byJoe Cornish
Produced by
CinematographyTom Townend
Edited byJonathan Amos
Music by
Distributed byOptimum Releasing
Release date
  • 12 March 2011 (2011-03-12) (SXSW)
  • 11 May 2011 (2011-05-11) (United Kingdom)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom[2]
Budget£8 million[3]
Box office£4.1 million[3]

Attack the Block is a 2011 British science fiction comedy horror film written and directed by Joe Cornish and starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker and Nick Frost. It was the film debut of Cornish, Boyega and composer Steven Price.

The film centers on a teenage street gang who have to defend themselves from predatory alien invaders on a council estate in South London on Guy Fawkes Night. Released on 11 May 2011, it underperformed at the box office but received a positive critical reception, with particular praise for Cornish's direction and Boyega's performance, and it also received several international accolades.[4] A sequel is in development.


On Guy Fawkes Night, trainee nurse Samantha Adams is mugged by a gang of teenage hoodlums: Pest, Dennis, Jerome, Biggz and leader Moses. When a meteorite falls from the sky into a nearby car, Samantha escapes. As Moses searches the wreck of the car for valuables, his face is scratched by a small alien creature. The creature runs away, but the gang chase and kill it. Hoping to gain fame and fortune, they take the dead animal to their acquaintance, cannabis dealer Ron and his boss Hi-Hatz, a local gang leader.

More objects fall from the sky. Eager to fight the creatures, the gang arm themselves and go to the nearest crash site. However, they find these aliens are much larger and threatening. Fleeing the aliens, the gang are intercepted by two policemen accompanying Samantha and Moses is arrested. The aliens follow Moses and maul the unarmed officers to death, leaving Samantha and Moses trapped inside a van. Dennis reaches the vehicle and drives away, only to crash into Hi-Hatz's car. Samantha runs away while the rest of Moses's gang catch up and confront Hi-Hatz and his henchman.

The gang try to flee to Wyndham Tower, a tower block, but are attacked by the aliens; Biggz is forced to hide and Pest is bitten in the leg. They find that Samantha lives in their building and persuade her to treat Pest's leg. An alien bursts in and Moses kills it with a samurai sword. Realizing that the group was not lying about the creatures being extraterrestrial, Samantha joins them.

The gang moves upstairs to the flat owned by Tia, Dimples, Dionna and Gloria, believing that their security gate will keep them safe. The aliens instead attack from outside, smashing through the windows and decapitating Dennis. The girls believe them to be the focus of the creatures and kick them out of the flat. Hi-Hatz and two more henchmen attack the gang, but an alien arrives and chases Hi-Hatz and the henchmen into a lift; only Hi-Hatz makes it out alive.

Making their way upstairs to Ron's weed room, the gang runs into more aliens, but using fireworks as a distraction, they manage to get through. Jerome becomes disoriented in the smoke and is killed by an alien. Entering Ron's flat, they find that Hi-Hatz is waiting for them there, who prepares to shoot Moses but he is then suddenly attacked and killed by the aliens who broke through the window. The group flee and are now joined by Brewis, one of Ron's customers and a zoology student. Moses, Pest and Samantha retreat into the weed room, while Ron hides in the flat.

In the weed room, Brewis notices a luminescent stain on Moses' jacket under the ultraviolet light. Brewis theorises that the aliens are like spores, drifting through space on solar winds until they chance on a habitable planet. After landing in an area with enough food, the female lets off a strong pheromone to attract the male creatures so that they can mate and propagate their species. Moses persuades the rest of the gang to return Samantha's stolen ring and together they form a plan. As Samantha has not been stained with the alien pheromone she can to go to Moses's flat and turn on the gas oven.

Samantha successfully bypasses the aliens and turns on the gas in the flat. She leaves the tower block and Moses, with the corpse of the small alien strapped to his back, runs to the gas-filled apartment with all of the aliens following him. He throws the corpse into the apartment, and uses fireworks he ignites the room and leaps out of the window. The resulting explosion kills all of the aliens and leaves a portion of the block in flames.

In the aftermath, Moses, Pest, Brewis and Ron are arrested and held responsible for the deaths around the block. The police then ask Samantha to identify Moses and his friends as those who killed everyone, including the two police officers that had arrested Moses earlier. Instead, Samantha corrects them by saying that all of the boys are her neighbours and they protected her. In the back of the police van, Moses and Pest hear the residents of the block cheering for Moses; they both smile.


Representative of the film's plot and location, most of the cast (many of whom spoke Multicultural London English during the film) were young, relative unknowns and local to the area. According to the DVD's making-of featurette, the teenagers were selected from drama classes of London council estate schools and then had to go through eight auditions before being offered a part.[5] John Boyega found out about this film from an ad placed on the internet. The cast includes:

  • John Boyega as Moses, a low level crook, teenage gang leader and orphan looking for respect around the block.
  • Jodie Whittaker as Samantha Adams, a trainee nurse and new resident of Wyndham Tower.
  • Alex Esmail as Pest, a teenage jokester, pyromaniac and loyal second in command of Moses's gang.
  • Franz Drameh as Dennis, a hotheaded pizza delivery boy and the enforcer of the gang.
  • Leeon Jones as Jerome, the most level headed member of the gang and the most academically inclined.
  • Simon Howard as Biggz, the youngest member of the gang. Throughout most of the film, Biggz is trapped in a skip after he's cornered by the aliens.
  • Nick Frost as Ron, the local drug dealer who lives in the penthouse of Wyndham Tower and knows everyone.
  • Luke Treadaway as Brewis, a posh student stoner who's one of Ron's customers.
  • Jumayn Hunter as Hi-Hatz, the local psychopathic gangster who's Ron's feared boss and the true main antagonist.
  • Danielle Vitalis as Tia, a girl living in Wyndham Tower who's Moses's love interest and friend to the gang.
  • Paige Meade as Dimples, Tia's quick tempered roommate who is also a friend to the gang.
  • Chris Wilson as Arresting Police Officer
  • Sammy Williams as Probs, a child who wishes to join Moses's gang.
  • Michael Ajao as Mayhem, Probs's best friend who shares his goal of joining Moses's gang.


Big Talk Pictures, known for films including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, produced the film alongside Film4, The UK Film Council and StudioCanal.[2]

The plot was inspired by an event where the director was mugged himself, and after adding the science fiction angle into the plot, Joe Cornish interviewed various kids in youth groups in order to find out what kind of weapons they would use if a real alien invasion occurred. The director wanted to counter the trend of 'hoodie horror' films which demonised urban youths.[6] Cornish also based the character of the stoner Brewis on himself in his twenties.


Attack the Block is set in a fictional neighbourhood said in-film to be located in the London district of Brixton. It is actually a composite of various council estates across London. Director Cornish explains:

We wanted to stamp a clear layout on the audience's minds early, and since we couldn't afford to show an aerial shot of the estate as it doesn't exist, the way to show it was by showing this top shot of the map at the very beginning of the film.[7]

The name Wyndham Estates appears on the left of the entrance to the fictional tower blocks, referencing the English science-fiction writer John Wyndham. The science fiction writer J. G. Ballard is also referenced by one of the street names; Ballard wrote a number of novels set in large urban tower blocks, including High-Rise. The film was shot across London from March to May 2010, with six weeks of night shoots[8] on the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle; Myatts Field, Brixton; Oval Underground station and the Bemerton Estate in Islington. Interior scenes were filmed at Three Mills Studios in Newham, part of the East End of London.[9]

Creature effects[edit]

The creatures began with two men in gorilla-like suits with animatronic jaws; post-production added the unearthly qualities such as the spiky fur which doesn't reflect any light, the claws, the rows of bioluminescent jaws, and even some of their movement. In total the film features over 100 effects shots, which were completed over the course of 4 months by Swedish effects house, Fido.[10] The creatures have no eyes and hunt and find mates using an extremely evolved sense of smell; their movement is enabled mainly through echolocation. According to the DVD commentary, the echolocation noises made by the creatures were a combination of dolphin sonar mixed digitally with the grunts and snarls of dozens of other animals, and even a woman screaming.[11] Some puppets were used, such as the smaller, hairless female alien which terrified the young cast.



StudioCanal's British distribution company Optimum Releasing released the film in the United Kingdom on 11 May 2011. Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions acquired this film's United States distribution rights,[12] and the group opened this film in limited theatrical release in the United States on 29 July 2011 through Screen Gems.[13] US distributors were concerned that American audiences might not understand the strong South London accents, and may have even used subtitles if it were to be released in the United States.[14] Cornish acknowledged this during the SXSW Q and A. When he asked the audience, "Can I ask you guys something? American distributors are nervous about language, the slang" the audience said they could understand it.[15]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom on 19 September 2011 and in the United States on 25 October 2011. released an exclusive Blu-ray and DVD double play edition, with a glow-in-the-dark sleeve, featuring the bio-luminescent jaws of one of the creatures.[16]


Attack the Block
Soundtrack album by
Released16 May 2011 (2011-05-16)
Steven Price chronology
Attack the Block
The World's End
Basement Jaxx chronology
Focus on Atlantic Jaxx
Attack the Block
Basement Jaxx vs. Metropole Orkest

The soundtrack for the film was an original score composed by British electronic music group Basement Jaxx, and Steven Price except for a few songs featured in the film but not on the soundtrack (such as the 1993 rap track "Sound of da Police" by KRS-One, and the 2006 reggae track "Youths Dem Cold" by Richie Spice, played during the end credits).

During Evan Sawdey's interview with the duo for PopMatters, he mentioned the album as an "obscure soundtrack placement that only hardcore aficionados found out about."[17]

In 2018 I Am Shark reissued the soundtrack on a 2xLP vinyl pressing featuring exclusive written commentaries from Joe Cornish and Steven Price. The album packaging represents the monsters with glow in the dark teeth on the labels and glow colored vinyl.[18]

The original Attack the Block soundtrack by Basement Jaxx and Steven Price features the following tracks:

  1. "The Block"
  2. "Sam is Mugged"
  3. "Round Two Bruv"
  4. "It's Raining Gollums"
  5. "Tooling Up"
  6. "Moses is Arrested"
  7. "Tell Me I'm Dreaming"
  8. "Throat Ripper"
  9. "Rooftops"
  10. "Moses – Ninja"
  11. "Just Another Day"
  12. "They Want Moses"
  13. "Actions Have Consequences"
  14. "Eat My Hat"
  15. "They Fell Out of the Sky"
  16. "I Need to Finish What I Started"
  17. "Turn the Gas Up"
  18. "Moses vs. The Monsters"
  19. "Moses the Hero"
  20. "The Ends"[19]

A rap song called "Get That Snitch", original to the film and rapped by the character Hi-Hatz, is featured at various times in the film. The full song was featured on the DVD special features.

The score and soundtrack album was mixed by Gareth Cousins.


Box office[edit]

On its opening theatrical weekend in the United Kingdom in May 2011, Attack the Block garnered £1,133,859, putting it in third place only slightly behind American blockbusters Thor and Fast Five; also in the opening weekend Attack the Block had the highest cinema site average by almost twice of the other films.[20] On a screen-by-screen basis, Attack the Block was the week's strongest performer.[21] In North America, the film's theatrical run began in July 2011 and was a box office flop[22] despite receiving overall good reviews. Its theatrical run began in July 2011 and, in limited release for less than two months with 66 cinemas at its peak, it managed to gross $1,024,175 (£659,040) in North America.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Attack the Block received acclaim from critics. Review aggregation Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 90% based on 183 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Effortlessly mixing scares, laughs, and social commentary, Attack the Block is a thrilling, brisky-paced sci-fi yarn with a distinctly British flavor."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 75 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24]

The website Slash film lists Attack the Block as a "true cult classic" deserving of its own action figures.[25] In his review, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert praised the film's use of character development and the performance given by Boyega.[26] Scott Wampler of The Examiner rated it A+ and said it was officially the best film of the 2011 film festival season and likened it to other debuts such as Neill Blomkamp's District 9 and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.[27] Matt Patches writing for Cinemablend said "Attack the Block, even on its small scale, may wind up as one of the best action movies of the year".[28] Christ Tilly at IGN gave it four stars saying "Cornish directs with the confidence of a seasoned pro" and calling the film "a blast from start-to-finish."[29] Ben Rawson-Jones of Digital Spy awarded the movie four stars, saying that it is "exactly the kind of distinctly homegrown product that the British film industry should be making".[30] Mark Kermode gave a mixed review saying he did not dislike the film, but "wanted it to be funnier" and "needed it to be scarier".[31]

Attack the Block was revisited by critics following the casting of its two lead actors as stars of flagship science fiction franchises – Boyega as Finn in Star Wars and Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor in Doctor Who. In a 2017 retrospective, Tom Philip writing for GQ described the film as "one of the most confidently-delivered debut feature films in recent memory" and said it "still stands out as one of the best genre-mashup films of the decade",[32] while Nathan Rabin for Rotten Tomatoes said that the film deserved cult status and called it "a star-making vehicle in the truest sense".[33] It was listed among Wired Magazine's best films of the 2010s.[34]



In May 2021, it was announced that Cornish would be writing and directing a sequel, with Boyega set to reprise his role and produce.[47]


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  2. ^ a b "Attack the Block". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Attack the Block". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 March 2016. Information courtesy of Box Office Mojo. Used with permission.
  4. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (28 July 2011). "Inner City vs. Outer Space". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  5. ^ DVD "making of" featurette
  6. ^ Gallagher, Paul (28 April 2011). "Cornish Nasties". The List. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  7. ^ "Location". Attack the Block Minisite. Film 4. Retrieved 28 June 2012.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "The Look". Attack the Block minisite. Film 4. Archived from the original on 12 December 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  9. ^ "Our Clients". 3Mills. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  10. ^ "3D World magazine - Creative Bloq".
  11. ^ DVD commentary track[specify]
  12. ^ Rob Frappier. "Screen Gems to Distribute Hot Sci-Fi Film 'Attack the Block'".
  13. ^ McWeeny, Drew (14 March 2011). "Review: Midnight movie Attack The Block is an instant genre classic". Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (17 March 2011). "Why Attack the Block needs SXSW".
  15. ^ Olsen, Mark (14 March 2011). "SXSW 2011: 'Attack the Block' hits Austin hard". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ "".
  17. ^ Sawdey, Evan (29 October 2014). "Power to the People: An Interview with Basement Jaxx". PopMatters. PopMatters Media, Inc. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  18. ^ Latinen, Chris (25 December 2017). "Attack The Block Soundtrack gets first vinyl pressing". Modern Vinyl. Modern Vinyl. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  19. ^ "".
  20. ^ "UK Box Office: May 13 – May 15, 2011". UK Film Council. Archived from the original on 30 May 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Thor continues box office reign in UK and US". BBC News. 17 May 2011.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Attack the Block at Rotten Tomatoes
  24. ^ Attack the Block at Metacritic
  25. ^ "'Attack The Block' Review: A Genre Blending, Cult Classic in the Making – /Film". 29 July 2011.
  26. ^ Ebert, Roger (27 July 2011). "Attack the Block: Review".
  27. ^ Warmpler, Scott. "SXSW 2011: ATTACK THE BLOCK Review". Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  28. ^ "SXSW Review: Attack The Block Could Be The Best Action Movie of the Year". 17 March 2011.
  29. ^ Tilly, Chris (14 March 2011). "Attack the Block". IGN. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  30. ^ "Attack the Block". DigitalSpy. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  31. ^ "Kermode uncut: Block Rocking Meat". kermodeandmayo. 4 September 2011.
  32. ^ Philip, Tom (24 July 2017). "The Movie That Launched John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker". Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  33. ^ Rabin, Nathan (18 January 2018). "Why the 2011 Sci-Fi Sleeper Attack the Block Deserves Cult Status". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  34. ^ "The 24 Absolute Best Movies of the 2010s". Wired. 26 December 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  35. ^ "Attack The Block wins Midnight Feature award for 'Best Film' at SXSW 2011 / Big Talk Productions". 22 February 1999. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  36. ^ Makinen, Julie (26 June 2011). "L.A. Film Festival: Audience favorites coming soon to a theater near you". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 June 2011. If you missed the festival, which wraps up Sunday, you'll soon be able to catch some of the award-winners in theaters, among them 'Attack the Block,' which won the audience award for best narrative.
  37. ^ Vlessing, Etan (7 August 2011). "'Attack the Block' Takes Fantasia Audience Award". The Hollywood Reporter.
  38. ^ "European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation – The home of the Méliès d'Or". Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  39. ^ "Attack the Block Scores Twice with European Film Festival Awards / Big Talk Productions". 22 February 1999. Archived from the original on 14 December 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  40. ^ "TFF". Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  41. ^ "Attack the Block vince il Mouse d'Oro". 10 March 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  42. ^ Kay, Jeremy (14 December 2011). "Toronto critics honour Tree of Life with best film, director | News | Screen". Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  43. ^ a b c d "Sitges 2011: Winners Announced; Red State and Attack the Block Score Multiple Awards". DreadCentral.
  44. ^ "Black Film Critics Circle". Black Film Critics Circle. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  45. ^ a b "2011 Awards". 28 December 2011. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  46. ^ a b "The Help Cleans Up At the Black Reel Awards « The Black Reel Awards". Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  47. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. "John Boyega Set To Reunite With Joe Cornish For 'Attack The Block 2'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 18 May 2021.

External links[edit]