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Perhaps I'm a little biased. After all, this is set in the city I live
and work in, and seeing Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus, which I
pass by every morning and which are usually teeming with crowds of
people, completely empty was enough to send shivers down my spine.
Usually when you watch a movie like this it's located in some
nondescript Midwestern village, which makes it easy to detach yourself
from the events unfolding on screen. But seeing them occur in the place
you call home is something that gives it an entirely new sense of
reality, and one I was previously unaccustomed to.
Still, judging 28 Days Later entirely on its merit as a film, it's easy to arrive at the conclusion that it's a fantastic achievement, as well as a coming-of-age of sorts for director Danny Boyle; I can't say the MTV-inspired vanity of The Beach, or the self-consciously trendy posturing of Trainspotting appealed to me, and to my shame I initially expected 28 Days Later to be given a similar treatment. Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded, discarded straight after a opening sequence which is at once effortless and fearsome. The rest of the movie was a joy. A terrifying joy, but a joy nonetheless.
It's true that sometimes minimalism can be more effective than overblown bravado, and it's definitely true for this movie. It's the scenes of complete silence which get to you the most; an entire metropolis empty. The grainy picture serves to add a documentary-style quality to the film, which makes the whole situation seem almost too real to bear. Definitely a wise choice to film this on digital video.
You will occasionally meet people who thought 28 Days Later wasn't 'scary' or 'gory' enough. These are the same people who will tell you that 2001 was 'boring', or that Memento was 'confusing'. Ignore them. Others didn't understand the purpose of the second half, or were confused by its change of pace, feeling that it distracted from the movie as a whole. However, I personally regard the second half as very important because, as another reviewer pointed out, it makes a very succinct point: What is scarier, the end of the world, or having the world repopulated by maniacs? That, I think, is where the real Horror of 28 Days Later lies.
28 Days Later, like the Romero zombie flicks of yore, is ultimately an allegory of the days we are living in, an age in which we are constantly confronted with violence by the media (much like the ape right at the start of the film), where violence begets violence, and humanity faces an uncertain future. I applaud Danny Boyle's bravery in making 28 Days Later because he undoubtedly took a big commercial risk when the majority of the cinema-going public might prefer escapism to words of caution. Remember, Rage is a human-made disease. Quite the allegory there.
Like most great masterpieces of their time, 28 Days Later has been misunderstood by a considerable amount of people. I have no doubt it will go down in history as a classic, the one movie which perfectly sums up the confused era we are living in. And even if you didn't like it, it would be advisable to give 28 Days Later another chance; it's a haunting experience when looked at from the right angle. Danny Boyle has many years left in him, I hope he'll continue making more movies like this.
This film is about a virus, 'Rage' virus that makes the infected person
mad with extreme rage and hungry for blood. Within 28 days one outbreak
in London caused entire Britain dead or evacuated leaving behind a
blood-thirsty infected population and a handful of solitary normal
persons. Civilization came to a halt, society got destroyed while those
limited survivors fight for existence among frequent attack by the
Sounds familiar? Then what makes "28 Days Later..." a classic among a horde of zombie/biohazard movies? Simply a touch of art that Danny Boyle is able to bring what others could not. The others focus too much on extensive, special-effects-controlled, gory action sequences between infected and normals, with heavy background music. But here there's always a tinge of sadness, emptyness, helplessness. Consider that empty London scene with that background music. We found out there's much else to show than just electrifying action or gore to describe the picture of life in this condition that these movies talk about.
There are mistakes and loopholes in this movie. But that couldn't weaken the otherwise tight-gripping storyline. The greatest achievement of this movie is to make one viewer stay neutral throughout the film, without taking any side in the first place. Because the virus we talk about is simply used as a metaphor. 'Rage' is shown as a social disease. That makes it a 'serious' film, not a flick. Every person, even the harshest critic of zombie horror movies should watch this. 5 out of 5 stars.
Oh, did I mention Cillian Murphy was awesome?
The key to keeping the sci-fi horror genre alive in the cinemas, as of
late, is to make sure the material and techniques the filmmakers
present is at least competent, at it's average creative, and at it's
best something that we haven't seen before or haven't seen in such a
style or form. George A. Romero did that back in prime 60s and 70s era
of film-making, bringing forth one of the most memorable trilogies of
all time for the genre. While many consider Romero to be on any given
list one of the greatest horror directors (I included), it is important
to know that he too had his sources for his little independent film in
1968, and after that was when he really got inventive, resulting in a
masterpiece and a lackluster. Director Danny Boyle and author Alex
Garland know that if they were to cook up a yarn all too similar to
Romero it wouldn't be satisfying. So, they've done what is essential to
the success of 28 Days Later- they take ideas that have been in
practice for many years, turn them fresh, and as the audience we feel
repelled, excited, terrified, nauseous (perhaps), and enthralled, but
we won't leave feeling like we've seen complete hack work.
What does Boyle and his team set out to do to freshen up the zombie string? By making not in precise terms a "zombie" movie- you never hear "living-dead" uttered in this film, although you do hear "infected" and a new word for what these people have, "rage". Indeed, this is what the infected have in Britain, when a monkey virus gets let loose on the Island, and from the beginning of the infectious spread the film cuts to a man, Jim, lying in a hospital bed, who wanders abandoned streets and views torn fragments of society in front of him. That Boyle implements atmosphere as heavily as he does with the action/chase scenes gives an indication of his dedication to the detail. Jim soon finds a few other survivors, including Selena (Naomie Harris) and a father and his daughter (Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns) who hear of salvation on a radio and decide to brave it out to find it. When they do, it's a military outpost that's without any true salvation, outside of the various military typos.
Like in Boyle and producer Andrew MacDonald's spellbinding (if that's the proper terminology) adaptation of Trainspotting, the craft is on par (or arguably topping) with the story and characters, and thus it has to captivate us all the more so to care about the plight of Jim and his companions. The photography by Anthony Dod Mantle is striking, not the least of which since it was done on digital photography (like in Blair Witch, the use of non-professional camera equipment adds the proper shading when needed), but also many of the shot compositions are different for such a film. The editing by Chris Gill goes quicker than expected in the attack scenes, going so fast between the infected throwing up blood, the screaming on-looker; the new infected transforming within seconds, and then the results that follow. Mark Tildesley's production design, as well as John Murphy's music, evokes haunting, evocative moods even in the more mundane scenes. And the acting, considering not many of the actors are well-known, is more than believable for such a script.
I'm not sure if 28 Days Later will be everyone's cup of tea. Some of the horror and science fiction fans out there will immediately hear of this film, see a preview or a TV ad, or even see it, and dismiss it as phooey rubble borrowed from the video-store. I can see their points of view, since I saw many similarities in Romero and some other films (the military scenes reminded me of Day of the Dead, though the chained up Zombie in this was done for more practical reasons, and the supermarket scene is a little unneeded considering the satirical reverence it had in Dawn of the Dead). But what they should understand is that Boyle isn't making a 100% original film, and no one could at this point of the genre's history. He has done, however, the most credible job he could in getting a different tone, a different setting in country, and of a different, enveloping view of the scene structures. Overall, 28 Days Later is constructed and executed like most sci-fi horror films you've ever seen, and like not many other sci-fi horror films you've ever seen combined, in a sense, for a modern audience: fascinating throughout.
The 2003 State-side release of Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" was
advertised as being a shockful scare-fest of a movie. I didn't get
around to seeing it until a few days ago and I gotta feel like that was
somewhat of an embellishment on the promoters' part.
When environmental terrorists attack a lab that contains diseased chimps who are infected with a "Rage" virus, they unwittingly let loose a plague that lays waste to England and(perhaps)the rest of society. The 28 Days later of the title cuts to a mostly abandoned London where a coma-tized bicycle courier named Jim(Cillian Murphy,effective) wakes from his stasis to find himself alone in a hospital. As he searches London for signs of life,he is rescued from raging zombies by a couple of survivalists(one of them,the lovely Naomie Harris)who he follows from place to place to keep alive. From there,he also meets a man and his daughter(Brendan Gleeson,terrific,and Megan Burns,good)and they try to find a refuge out of London-town. A recorded message of a "paradise" where "salvation" can be found is tracked by Frank(the man) on his shortwave radio.
This film feels more like a meditation on what happens to people when they are reduced to their lowest elements. A friend of mine told me that this movie's running zombies was what inspired the zombies in the remake of "Dawn of the Dead",but where "Dawn of..." was pretty much a full-throttle action/horror hybrid from about start to finish,this film plays more like a "What if..." movie,with less emphasis on the creatures themselves and more on the (lucky?) survivors. There are also disturbing lessons on the nature OF survival,too.
An very interesting and disturbing flick that probably sold itself wrong.
I'm amazed there are so many negative reviews of this film; I thought it succeeded on every level. It's artistic and atmospheric, with a great pace, sympathetic characters, and a fantastic climax. The music is very nicely done, and, to me, the eerie opening scenes of the empty London streets are worth the price of admission all on their own. I'm a stubborn viewer, and, normally, when a film benefits from early critical buzz in the manner that this one did, I find some excuse not to like it. But not this time; I'm completely impressed. (Incidentally, I think it's interesting that while most horror films these days seem to have been inspired by knockoffs of knockoffs, "28 Days Later" apparently owes more to John Wyndham's classic disaster novel "The Day of the Triffids" than to anything else. And that's a good thing.) HIGHLY recommended.
28 Days Later successfully takes the zombie genre to a new level, this
movie is far more than just a horror flick. There are some great
characters, that you actually care about, some you'll like, some you'll
be glad to see killed, but all solidly performed.
The story is well written and avoids the clichéd cheesy scripts that are too often attached to the horror genre. And I must add that the direction is exactly what you would expect from 'Danny Boyle' top class.
For me though the real difference between this movie and many others made in this genre is as follows - The infected (the zombie like folk) are more menacing, they turn instantly and they move fast, a combination that would instill fear in every one of us.
I don't mean to run down the zombie movie genre - I am a huge fan of most of these films, but lets be honest its been done to death, re-animated and done again, and this was the first movie to break the mould and transcend to a new level.
If you like your horror flicks, then this is certainly worthy of your attention.
The one thing that made this movie effective... well, let me back up. Ever
have a nightmare where you're being stalked, or otherwise threatened, and
you could die, and it's scary as hell? I mean, the absolute worst? Now,
think: have you ever had a nightmare where someone you love was already
dead, and you knew it, you saw it?
It's infinitely worse.
This movie recognizes that. There is some action, yes, mostly towards the end, but what makes this movie one of the scariest I've seen is its method of accessing the deepest fears in all of us -- not fear for ourselves, of our own deaths, but for others, our families and loved ones, and the utter, complete loneliness if they were to simply be gone forever. This is a post-apocalyptic movie that really drives in the impact of the idea, to devastating effect. It makes everything more engaging: the characters feel more real (though this is also due to the excellent script), the danger more immediate. But this is not a things-pop-out-and-scare-you horror movie. It's a film that will haunt you.
In England a group of animal rights activists break into a research
to free monkeys. However the monkeys are infected with a new developed
virus called rage which is contagious by blood or bodily fluid - at the
time Jim lies in a coma. 28 days later Jim awakens from his state to find
London deserted and populated only by a group of those infected by rage.
Jim is rescued by Selena and her friend who tell him what has happened and
start a search for other survivors and a quest to find the cure, promised
a military unit stationed in the north.
I excitedly arrived at the preview for this looking forward to a tense British horror movie to make me jump with fear. I got pretty much what I wanted. The plot is simple and omits much detail but not to it's disservice. Details as to what the virus is or what it was created in the first place (by putting monkeys in front of TV's Clockwork Orange style?) but the detail is not important seconds into the film when we wake up with Jim. At this point his fear becomes ours and what is important to him is not the detail but the bigger picture of the infected and the chances of survival.
The plot is told in two parts. First the big picture in London and then the smaller battle north of Manchester. Both are well told but for different reasons. The bridging section of the journey north is good as it helps us know the characters better. Of course is it scary? Well, not scary but thrilling all the way. To me scary is things like Ringu - creepy stuff, but most will be freaked by 28 days later. The infected are not zombies in definition or in action - they move silently and fast and with pure blood lust. I was always more scared by zombie flicks than anything else becomes they keep coming - here they do the same but fast!
The direction is good for the most part. The opening scene in London just shows how badly Crowe did his bit in Vanilla Sky. Here it is clever and chilling to see much of London totally empty. The direction is better when it is fast cutting and handheld style. We see things like the characters would see them out of the corner of their eyes, a flicker, a shadow etc and it works to great effect. The only downside is that, at one or two points, the attacks were signalled by a preceding talking 5 minutes, but this is minor. The final rain soaked action is excellent - fast, gripping and paced. This film doesn't rely on gore or special effects (although it is there) instead it has genuine tension and fear.
The film is very British. It is very low-key and realistic. The survivors are not Mad Max style heroes but people clinging to life by a thread or setting up survivalist measures that simply don't work. The ending is not as good as I had hoped but it wasn't bad and it fitted with the tone of reality that Jim had realised when lying on his back in the woods towards the end. It's not without flaws but the film is a very good British horror film - Americans will wonder `where are all the teenager girls to scream' or `why don't they all have guns' or `why is there no real dah-dah music to tell us when something is going to happen' but that is because this is a British film and not Hollywood.
Most reviews have praised the `unknown' cast. Well I agree the cast did very well - but unknown? Murphy certainly is not unknown (and won't be from now on) and he does Jim very well, from when the truth is first real to him, to his decision that he must learn to kill through to his transformation near the end. Harris is excellent again, I say again as she did well in miniseries `white teeth'. Her accent is British and she plays a younger role but she is a good actress. Brendan Gleeson is good in a fatherly role but Eccleston seems clipped and at odds with his military role. In fact all the military guys were laddish caricatures and only just did the job - but I never believed in their characters as I did with the others.
Overall I was glad to see this early. I really enjoyed it, the pace at times may have been uneven but to me that added to the tension - an attack could come at any time. The eventual small scale focus helped the tension and pace of the story. Thrilling, scary, tense and well written - even more surprising is that it's home grown!
As it so happens, 28 Days Later is the best zombie movie in the last
few decades. Probably since Romero's classics, if I recall accurately.
It stands up on its own in a genre which is frequently plagued by a
sort of innate stupidity, a consequence of one too many dead people.
Otherwise how could one explain the fact that the most acclaimed zombie
films are parodies of the genre?
28 Days Later shares a striking resemblance with Resident Evil, in that it kind of starts where RE left off: after one of the most exciting intro sequences I have ever witnessed (!), a lonely average-Joe, (Jim in this particular case) wakes up in a deserted London and takes a jolly good walk through the intimidatingly empty streets. Man-kind seems to have been wiped out by a contagious virus which induces a sort of blind rage upon those who fall prey to it. As may have guessed by now, this will be a story of survival.
While most horror films will offer a relatively exciting ride with little more than sparse scares, Danny Boyle's movie sheds a new light on the survival instinct of human beings which can damned well spook the living hell out of you - even if not in the traditional sense. Looking at Children of Men might offer some insight into what it feels like to have no future and this itself may clear the way to appreciating 28 Days Later.
I guess it's one of those rare horror films which not only enlighten the viewer with nice, gory slaughters but also with a share of psychological goodies. 28 Days Later doesn't forget "the Master" either and offers an obvious and unobtrusive tribute to Dawn of the Dead. All around the movie keeps you going because it is an immersive experience and not just a "poke-your-finger" kind of experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A film that at time plays like a frenzied docudrama, 28 DAYS LATER...
is unrelenting, grim, horrific, and completely nightmarish. Images of
violence against humans dominates the screen for a few minutes, and we
soon learn these are televisions mounted against a wall, broadcasting
non-stop footage of the inhuman things people do to one another. A
monkey lies strapped down, facing these images, helpless. There are
others in cages nearby. A band of environmentalists break in,
predictably to free these imprisoned monkeys, but a conflict ensues as
a scientist barges in and warns them it would be completely insane to
do so -- they're infected with Rage. However, since scientists normally
equal evil corporations and dehumanized technology known for cruelty
not only against animals but humans, they proceed to free one of the
apes... and total pandemonium breaks loose as the monkey viciously
attacks its freer, and in seconds we see her eyes have become red. She
is an infected.
And this is the simple setup for a movie that in 100 minutes frightens the pants of even a jaded person. To see shots of a deserted London magnified by shots of abandoned vehicles, overturned equipment, and a haunting collage of missing persons that recalls the scores of photos of the missing that did not survive the 9 - 11 attacks, is extremely disturbing and unsettling and made me squirm in my seat as Cillian Murphy's character Jim walks around town, having awaken about a month later from a coma. It's not reassuring for him to know he may be the only surviving person in the city, and soon he learns there are others out there... but not reasonable, frightened people as much as ferocious predators who will rip the flesh right off you, and if mercy takes over, you may die right there and then, because it only takes 20 seconds for full infection to take over and turn you into a raving monster.
That he is saved at the last minute by others who have survived the madness is his saving grace. These are Naomi Harris as Selena and Noah Huntley as Mark, who brief Jim on what happened in haunting monologues, and that Danny Boyle stays focused on Huntley's face as he relates to Jim his own story is flashback enough: it only heightens the terror that swept London and that is still alive and well. This prompts Jim to go visit his parents, maybe hoping they are still alive, and after a near-fatal encounter with an infected there in which Mark does not survive (Selena, absolutely committed to survive this, hacks him to pieces after quickly noticing he's been infected), they barely manage to escape more infected before meeting two other people, a bearish man and his daughter (Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns). They have been listening to scattered transmissions that are indicating Manchester holds a possible refuge for survivors.
Once they make the decision to leave to Manchester the movie takes a turn and becomes a road film and involved a harrowing if somewhat implausible escape from London through a tunnel, where even the rats are running away from the sheer horror these barely seen people have become. That they eventually meet this fort in an already destroyed Manchester gives them little reassurance, which proves to be true as a small band of military guys lead by Christopher Eccleston have dubious intentions with the women.
And here is where Danny Boyle cleverly turns an apocalyptic movie into a study of the human race: can the people who are supposedly meant to protect us be actually worse than the ones who have fallen to a devastating plague? The answer, quite simply, turns out to be yes. That this makes Jim do a much needed transition from dazed youth to fierce survivor drives the point even more home: Rage wiped out most of the population, as a virus, but in given circumstances, is found quite well within us, and Jim becomes so filled with it at one climactic sequence it takes Selena a second before reacting that he hasn't yet been infected.
This is a very tense film. There are moments of quietude in a field, where sleep comes uneasy, and even that moment to me was worse than any of the moments when the infected actually sped out and after any of the characters. Seen in stroboscopic images, they becomes even more frightening than if seen as lumbering idiots. If the ending seems a little too upbeat, maybe it's only the decision Boyle and the screenwriters took after having us gone through so much gut-wrenching tension and clear calls, that it was only fair to have Jim, Selena, and Hannah survive and see a glimmer of hope at the end. Other than that, 28 DAYS LATER compresses the battles with good and evil in a world gone wild instead of going all over the place with too many characters like THE STAND and many others do. Intelligent, repulsive at times, unbearable, this was one of the best films of 2003. The DVD release has some nice extras, like alternate endings, deleted scenes, for those into investigating further into Boyle's dark tale.
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