August 23, 2011

What Attack the Block Nerdtropes

Earlier, I discussed nerdtroping, the process of popularizing older genres via the addition of geek-friendly tropes.

The delightful SF-horror-actioner Attack the Block (go see it, right now in mid-sentence, before continuing to the rest of this post) nerdtropes a surprising genre: the social realist docudrama. The genre represent the underrepresented, placing its working class or underclass characters in struggles typical of a broader struggle against difficult social circumstances.

Its classic presentation, as seem in the films of the Italian Neo-Realist movement, emulates cinema verite documentary in its pursuit of polemical credibility. The genre has long held a fascination for British filmmakers working from a leftist perspective. Pioneering films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (both based on Alan Sillitoe novels) continue to shape UK film today.

Attack the Block concerns itself throughout with the social conditions that made its delinquent heroes who they are. The council housing project that defines them is the object of alien attack—a dynamic mirrored when the police come calling. The final character turn that brings the alien-conquering protagonist salvation from outside authority comes when the audience viewpoint character finally understands the circumstances of his upbringing. It wraps the message in thrilling chase scenes, bloody surprises and refreshingly lo-fi monster effects. The realism may be dustbinned, but the social message throughlines the script from alpha to omega.