Published on June 18th, 2003 | by Erich Becker0
Review: 28 Days Later
Once in a great while a movie comes along that revolutionizes a genre. Even more difficult is a movie that breaks the mold of the tried and true method of genre film making with over fifty years of canon (history). 28 Days Later from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach) is this kind of movie. With a few simple bends and breaks in the rules of zombie movies, 28 Days Later serves as one of the best new films based on the ancient lore of zombies, and, quite possibly, one of the best films that will be released this year.
It seems rare that such an intellectual film would hit during the popcorn movie summer season when big, brainless movies take to the big screen in order to break records and bring in massive audiences. Yet, most of these movies lack the substance to create a memory in the minds of the viewer that won’t dissipate even an hour after leaving the cinema. I already can’t remember what movies I saw a few months ago. As it is with being a film critic/reviewer, you have to see so much it takes an outstanding film to really make you stand up and say, “This is something special, this deserves recognition.” Only a few movies have done that for me over the years. Fight Club, The Matrix, Army of Darkness, and Final Destination are just some of the very select few that remind me why I do what I do. I can now safely add 28 Days Later to that list.
28 Days Later tells the story of a few survivors after a viral outbreak leaves the world devastated with zombies. After a group of animal activists break into a highly volatile lab and attempt to free some experimental specimens. When something goes wrong, as they always appear to, a virus called “Rage” is released into the human population. The similarities to other zombie movies can clearly be seen, but it is from this point on where things get interesting. The virus effects the human body in a much different way than that of previous zombie flicks. Within 30 seconds a typical person is transformed into a crazed being bent on feeding and with the ability to run. Who know transforming the undead from lumbering pacifists to hunger crazed marathon runners could add such an element to the movie. 28 days after infection the entire island of England has been deserted leading to some very cool scenes of our central characters examining the aftermath of such a biological assault.
The movie’s central character, Jim (Cillian Murphy), has so many things to deal with at once, and Boyle takes careful steps to exam each one of them. After being hit by a car on a courier route Jim, presumably, was in a coma for a number of weeks (four to be exact) and wakes up to find the entire country devastated. TV and radio have stopped broadcasting, newspapers read of “Evacuation” and churches are scrawled with text proclaiming the end is near. Its all standard post apocalyptic stuff, but this is all that mixed with some jet fuel and crack blast your brains out with just how good the film really is. Jim eventually meets up with a few other survivors who hear, on the radio, that a brigade of Army personnel are still alive and are able to protect any other survivors. They make a choice to seek out these soldiers and hopefully escape.
The movie holds a very important message that is reiterated in the films opening. People, even when not under the undue influence of antigens, have a general hatred for other people. It just seems to be our nature. While the first part of the film is a superb zombie movie, the second half dives into more of a psychological portrayal of the human brain and what really drives us. Without giving too much away, some things are just too good to be true.
The movie does suffer through a few things in the writing department that would scream out to be obvious. London has rivers and lakes surrounding it. Wouldn’t it be prudent to just get in a boat and drop anchor right in the middle of these bodies of water? Also the ending opens up some continuity problems with statements made earlier in the movie, but none of this detracts from the overall pleasure you get from seeing this film. While not relying too much on scare tactics such as people jumping out of places, there are a good number of “crash” moments that make you jump.
28 Days Later is a refreshing breath of fresh air into an increasingly stale genre. If you can drop any preconceptions that zombie movies have to be mindless decapitation fests you will enjoy 28 Days Later for the storytelling and the revelations that Boyle reveals about humans and our cherishing of life only at the point when it may slip away.