Director – Danny Boyle
Cast – Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Noah Huntley, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Marvin Campbell
Release Year – 2002
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This film is highly regarded as being one of the best, if not THE best horror film this decade, and I myself agree that 28 Days Later is one of the best horror films this millennium has seen. Director Danny Boyle first came to fame for his film Trainspotting, which many consider to be the ‘UK version of Requiem for a Dream”, and has since gone on to win Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire. Pretty impressive for a guy with one of the greatest horror films of all time under his belt eh?
The film begins with lots of rioting and chaos on the street, for unknown reasons. During the chaos a group of animal rights activists break into a research facility and set free the chimpanzees that have served as guinea pigs for some very experimental material. The activists however have no clue that the chimpanzees have been infected with a “rage virus” and viciously attack the activists the second they are set loose. The “rage virus” acts quickly in the blood and within seconds they are “infected” and ready to spread the virus. Fast forward 28 days later and our main character Jim(Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma in an abandoned hospital. He begins to wander around the city, curious as to where everyone has gone and why so many cars are left abandoned. Jim soon finds clues to lead him to believe that something catastrophic has happened. Newspapers with apocalyptic headlines and walls full of pictures of missing people adorn the downtown area of London. Soon enough he stumbles into an area of “infected” and he soon realizes that he is not alone, and must band together with a few other survivors to survive the carnage.
I really like how this film strayed away from the “zombie” element that most people wrongly associate with this film. The “infected” in this film are NOT zombies! For one they are not “dead”, and they do not eat people, they simply kill other people and that is it. The “rage virus” they are infected with simply causes the person to exhibit extreme rage that forces them to kill at will, and with extreme prejudice. I really liked how this film had the “infected” running at full speed and being quite agile, it’s pretty darn frightening and another non-zombie element thrown into the film. Directed Danny Boyle wanted this film to have a zombie feel, but to not really be a film about zombies. Mr. Boyle purposely had the “infected’ suffering from a virus due to our current/recent fear of viruses and other unpleasant pathogens. A mere bite, scratch, or even drop of blood in someone’s mouth or eye can turn them into a rage-infected person, and this happens very quickly as well. I love it!
One aspect that makes this film great is Danny Boyle’s execution and direction. Right off the back this film has the feel of a Danny Boyle film. We are shown very awesome and wide-panning cinematography and an amazing score and if you know anything about Danny Boyle…he is all about great cinematography and a great musical score. The opening scene 28 days after the carnage caused by the activists is the epitome of “apocalypse”. We see Jim staring off into the once bright and flowing city that now looks more like a ghost town all while a very chilling piece from the band Godspeed You Black Emperor graces your ears. I must also commend writer Alex Garland for his amazing scriptwriting and his use of conflict as we view scenes of strangers banding together, starting to trust each other, and then having to kill someone they just started to like due to them getting scratched by one of the infected. I also found some of the final conflict very interesting as it regards finding hope in repopulating the world as they know it, although not everyone has the enthusiasm as those who are for it and it leads to some issues of how far you would go to sustain the human species. Interesting stuff.
This film is more than just a simple horror film, and I think that separates it from the rest of the pack and is why this film has received such great reviews. The entire second movement did not incorporate much horror into it, but was actually quite fun and took a break from the “infected” action. There is still a bit of suspense because you know at the speed that the “infected” move about…they can attack at any time. The second movement did remind me a lot of the second movement of Dawn of the Dead, in which the characters go about having some fun and enjoying the fact that they are the only people around. They raid stores and take what they please just like the survivors did in Dawn of the Dead, showing that not only is Danny Boyle doing this film as his own interpretation of horror, but he respects the genre and is giving something back to the fans.
I really have no knocks against this film, although I must warn you that aside from all of the carnage this film does tend to move slow at times. I do not personally see it as a bad slow due to the fact that this film has to develop it’s characters(Danny Boyle does things right ya know…) and is really meant to shock the viewer with the visuals and dialogue and help us imagine what it would be like to experience Jim’s situation. So for those of us who can turn on our brains and take in the required development then this film’s slow pace at times should not be a problem.
Overall, this is an excellent horror film that is sure to even please non-fans of the horror genre. This film gives us a cool origin for the carnage, and is a break from the typical zombie-action that this film gets wrongly associated with. Highly recommended to all.
This film is ranked #3 on my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(1-10) post.