ATTACK THE BLOCK
Cornish NASTIES Brit sci-fi film Attack The Block has done a good turn for the asbo generation, by making aliens seem much worse. First-time director Joe ‘Adam and Joe’ Cornish talks to Paul Gallagher about turning the hoodie horror genre on its head
T hese are interesting times for British film comedy. Last year Chris Morris’ suicide bomber farce Four Lions presented an intelligent reflection on a thorny problem, while earlier this year Richard Ayoade’s Submarine proved that British comedy could tackle peculiar and poignant as well as the best American independents. Now Joe Cornish, half of cult TV and radio duo Adam and Joe, makes his writing and directing debut with Attack The Block, a joyously exciting action sci-fi that imagines the outcome when a bunch of vengeful extra- terrestrials face off against a gang of teenage hoodies in an inner-city London tower block.
There are laughs on hand, but Cornish also has a serious point to make about his protagonists’ exclusion from society, particularly in the character of Moses, the gang’s hotheaded leader, played by newcomer John Boyega. Moses is the kind of character that has become shorthand in recent British cinema for pure evil, thanks to a spate of ‘hoodie horrors’, including the Michael Caine revenge flick Harry Brown and Paul Andrew Williams’ Cherry Tree Lane. It’s a perspective that Cornish hopes to counter with Attack The Block.
‘This is certainly a reaction to [those] often brilliantly-made and well- crafted movies that I think take a slightly inhuman approach to an issue that, actually, involves very young kids. I think that’s the easy option, to take something in the world that already is demonised and frightens people, and just make it even more scary and horrible.’ Cornish favours a more compassionate view. ‘I don’t think it’s an incredibly radical premise to try and have sympathy for someone who has made a mistake. I think you’ll find it in the Bible quite a lot, and in various faiths; for me it’s quite a simple dramatic premise, and I’d be alarmed if contemporary society decided that it could only have absolutely clean-cut, morally pure characters in its narratives. If you went through the history of art and literature doing that, you’d lose most of it!’ Cornish’s upbeat and engaging manner – familiar from the weekly 6 Music radio show in which he and co-host Adam Buxton frequently collapse in fits of giggles – conveys his positivity about humanity, which is both infectious and very welcome in the often bleak world of UK film. It’s an outlook he shares with his filmmaker friend Edgar Wright, and it is what enabled him to see the potential for science fiction storytelling in these unlikely characters and settings, just as Wright did for zombies in Shaun of the Dead.
‘I totally looked at all these amazing tower blocks that have been around me all my life’ enthuses Cornish, ‘and I thought “wow, these are
16 THE LIST 28 Apr–26 May 2011