24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: John Boyega

'Attack the Block' director on killing off kids, 'E.T.' and more

August 2, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Attack the Block John Boyega

While Jon Favreau's big-budget, star-studded "Cowboys & Aliens" earned less-than-rave reviews and what could be described as a shrug at the box office, a much smaller alien movie also released last weekend is quickly becoming a critical darling.

"Attack the Block," the story of a group of inner-city London kids who defend themselves against an outer-space menace, has an 89% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 86 positive reviews out of 97. The film opened Friday in eight theaters, earning $130,000 total and a per-theater average of $16,306 -- a decent start for the modestly budgeted movie starring a slate of first-time and little-known actors.

Over on our sister blog Hero Complex, the film's young star John Boyega, who plays Moses, described his character's journey from hoodlum to hero as he leads a group of teens in their battle against the giant, furry space beasts. It was Boyega's first big-screen role.

"Attack the Block" also marked the directorial debut of Joe Cornish, who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's upcoming comic-book adaptation, "The Adventures of Tintin." 24 Frames sat down with Cornish to talk about "Attack the Block."

Q: It's hard to root for your protagonists at the beginning of the film. They're a bunch of punk kids who rob a lady at knifepoint.

A: There's no doubt that what they're doing at the beginning is a bad thing, and the film is making no apologies. And we knew we were doing something a little bit edgy and a little bit risky to start a movie like that. It's unusual. Most contemporary movies bend over backwards to make their protagonist as sympathetic as humanly possible -- you know, the underdog, the guy who's never quite made it, with the beautiful wife and the gorgeous children, and then they're kidnapped or murdered. But we flipped it around. We wanted to challenge the audience. When people asked me that question when we were developing the script, I would say, "Well, look. You're allowed to hate them." When the title of the movie comes up, "Attack the Block," and that second wave of meteors is coming down, you're allowed to go, "Good. Eat those [expletives]." You know what I mean? But the thing that drove me to write it was to take that energy and then try and turn it round. We're not being cheesy. It's not a huge, soppy, redemptive arc. It's (hopefully) subtle and truthful. ... At the end of the movie, Moses knows the consequences of his actions. He understands that he is in charge of his life. He understands that his choices will directly affect him and his hopes and his potential. So yeah, we've absolutely made it with heart and sincerity, and as a positive story.

Q: What do you think happens to Moses after the movie?

A: I think the rule of the law is pretty strict. I think he would be prosecuted for what he did at the beginning. When the full story came out, I think his positive actions would at least balance his negative actions. But I don't know. I like the ambiguity. I like the question mark. ... You have to bring your own intuition and bring your own morality. That's going to freak out some viewers who are used to everything being laid out for them. This is a movie for smart people, for open-minded people. I like the fact that we don't answer those questions.

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