Attack the block

Posted: July 10, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized

Most of you have not seen Attack the Block. In fact, most of you have probably not even heard of it. It is a relatively low budget English movie about an alien invasion in a poor neighborhood of South London. The tag line is “Inner city versus outer space.”

This movie was in many top 10 lists of critics in 2011, and yet most people never saw it.

Let me warn you that it is filled with violence and some bad language and excellent action and tension. Let me warn you as well that some of the language may or may not be bad, being London based slang I am really not sure. There is also quite a bit of drug use. And of alien violence.

Why bother with this movie then? Because in the midst of the kids dealing with an alien invasion in their block we are confronted with things that are scarier than big-wolf-gorilla aliens with glow in the dark teeth.

Moses is the leader of a group of teenagers who go around the block looking for opportunities to get some cash, crack some heads and smoke pot. They look tough but are scared all the time.  They begin the movie by mugging a nurse named Sam and from there they encounter and alien and things go nuts.

One of the scariest things is the general guilty-till-proven-innocent approach of all sides in the movie. That is how the police acts, that is how the kids act, that is how Sam acts, that is how the aliens act. Aliens are driven by whatever it is that they are driven, while humans are driven by greed, desire for respect, desire to get high or simply mean spirited ways of thinking.

The bad decisions of the human here are in full display (There are spoilers):

– Deciding to chase and beat to death the first alien; and they think it is only some monkey;

– The drug using and selling, hinted as a dangerous road for the kids;

– The mugging of a girl; later they apologize cause if they knew she was from the block they would not have done so…

– The use of fireworks in unsafe ways

– The use of pretty much everything in unsafe ways

In the midst of such chaos and trouble, is there anything salvageable? Oh yes.

One of the best things of the movie is how the kids get together to fight the invasion; they know very well they cannot expect help from the world and they need to go do it themselves.

What is bothersome to many in this movie is that kids who are into drugs and mugging can become heroes and save the day; it almost seems as an idealization and even glorification of who they are. But actually, the film shows us that the world is full of shades of grey; nobody is completely evil nor completely pure. All are bad and all have some good. In fact, that is how the Bible portrays mankind. We are all born in sin (Psalm51: 5) and incapable of good, this is not exclusive to delinquent kids of south London. And all of us are capable of the occasional good action and act of heroism; it does not matter where you are from. Heroism is not exclusive to a certain nation, certain ethnicity or certain religion. How can that be? Again the Bible points us the answer. Because we are the image of God there is still enough good left in the worst sinner that by God’s common grace he is able to do good things occasionally.

Moses, the gang leader, is really trying to make a name for himself and build his reputation (as are junior gang member wannabes Probs and Mayhem). By the end Moses realizes that the way to notoriety can be achieved by another road; the heroic and self-sacrificing effort of one who sees himself as guilty and tries to deal with the situation even if that costs his life.  This is not a film about good kids doing the right thing and saving the day; it is a film about bad kids saving the day. That bothers us doesn’t it?

And yet, if we want to be biblical, we will need to recognize that in this world bad kids do not save the day, nor do good kids; in fact, the testimony of the Scriptures is that there are no good kids. There is only one good man, there is only one hero. The story of the church is not a story of a bunch of good guys doing the right thing; it is the story of a bunch of losers and evil people who keep messing up and betraying their savior. And yet, because of Christ, united to him, we begin to change into something that we never were and never would be without this providential intervention from another world. In this life we will never fully become heroes; but we should begin to look more and more like him.

It is a strange world, this mess we live in. Good thing there is one who is fixing it.

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