(Originally posted on 9-11-11)
The plot is the simplest and most dependable in the industry. Our little group of heroes are surrounded by the enemy with no easy way to escape, so they hunker down and figure a way out.
Only this time our heroes are a group of adolescent hoodlums, the enemy are feral aliens with sharp glowing fang-y teeth, and they are trapped in their tenement building in a British ghetto.
The whole thing kicks off as Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a nurse new to the area, is walking home late in the evening. Fireworks are going off in the sky over the neighborhood, and then she comes across some shady figures on bikes (bicycles) suspiciously blocking her path (our anti-anti-anti heroes, natch’).
They establish their hoodlum bonafides by mugging her and then as it begins to feel like things could possibly escalate to real violence something big falls from the sky and crashes into a car right next to them, completely wrecking it. Sam takes this momentary distraction to flee, while our boys take front and center in the narrative as they investigate the burnt wreckage of the vehicle.
The leader of the gang, Moses, climbs inside the smoldering vehicle and as he is trying to boost the stereo he is attacked by some kind of little creature. The creature escapes and the gang chases after it and as is the way in nature when a bunch of teen males corner a smaller, weaker creature they proceed to beat the crap out of it until it is dead.
After they haul the creatures carcass to a safe haven to store it safely (Nick Frost’s character’s pot closet) they start seeing more of the falling meteors (rocks? Pods? Ships?) plummeting to the Earth. All in their neighborhood.
At first they jump at the chance to go out and kill more of these creatures, but they learn pretty quick that this new batch of creatures are bigger, meaner, and a lot more dangerous than the first one they encountered. And what’s worse is that these bigger, meaner, and more dangerous creatures are after them. And after Moses specifically. And the race is on as they try not to get captured and killed.
The cast is great, and even more so once you realize they are all pretty much unknowns. And not just unknowns, but non-actor unknowns at that. John Boyega, as Moses, was perfect – delivering a fully realized character that was both appropriately stoic and completely vulnerable at the same time, which is no easy task. Just ask Jason Statham or Sylvester Stallone or Brad Pitt. Or, rather, ask them once they are able to pull it off as convincingly as this young man.
And Nick Frost is his usual amiable self.
If I were to try to sum it up in a Hollywood type of High Concept pitch, I would say that it is a mix of A Clockwork Orange and Critters, with just a little bit of Lord of the Flies thrown in for good measure.
This is definitely a fun movie, and I love when a filmmaker is able to overcome obvious budget limitations. Director Joe Cornish has delivered a solid and intense little monster movie that, for the most part, makes you forget that it is competing in a genre that is top heavy with big budget computer generated landscapes and visions of goofy, lame realities that couldn’t possibly exist and grounds itself in something as quaint and rooted as “home” and “friendship” and, ultimately, doing the right thing in order to protect those things.
Definitely worth checking out – it is no classic, but it is way far from being a slouch.