28 Days Later


Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by:Alex Garland
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Bredan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston
Released: September 3, 2003
Grade: A

We begin in London at a laboratory where highly classified medical testing is being performed on apes.  Three animal activists break through the security but a scientist at the lab pleads with them not to continue as the apes have been infected with “rage”.  Unaware of the danger, one of the activists releases an ape from its cage and it sets upon her like a starving lion.

28 days later… Jim awakes in a locked operating theatre in a hospital.  The last thing he can remember is couriering on his cycle and being struck by a car.  He yells “hello” but there’s no response.  He looks around the hospital and there is not a living soul to be found.  He wanders outside and the normally bustling London streets are completely deserted with strewn rubbish the only sign that people once existed.

Thinking he is hallucinating, Jim wanders into a church and there he will know for sure that this is no illusion.  An unspeakable plague has overrun the country and life has ceased to exist.  There is no way of knowing if any others are still alive or if the virus has spread across the oceans.  Jim has no time to be philosophical because the infected that remain alive are hunting him down as food.  As a piece of graffiti so eloquently phrases is “Repent.  The end is very fucking nigh.”

Engrossing is the perfect adjective to describe the latest film from the director Danny Boyle who’s stellar credits include Shallow Grave, The Beach and Trainspotting.  The writer of the original screenplay is Alex Garland, who any backpacker should know wrote The Beach.  I have a copy of on my bookshelf and Garland is one guy who knows how to tell a compelling story.  28 Days Later is riveting all the way through.

With wild flesh eating humans roaming the streets, you’d be easily fooled into thinking this an unrealistic horror flick.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It’s a rational tale about how technology has left our society on the verge of annihilation and it could take just one person to destroy it all.  Further, this is a story of survival.  One man pulling on all his resources to stay alive and find the answers.

There are no big name cast members adds to the suspense.  If this were a standard Hollywood blockbuster, you’d know a few of the lesser heroins would be killed off, the big-name hero would defeat the baddies in a bloody finale and the world would go on living happily ever after.  You are never quite sure how this story will end and like a good book, you just wish it would go faster so you can find out.

It seems not even the studio and the director could agree on the ending.  Don’t leave the cinema early because following the final credits is an alternate ending – the one the director himself preferred.  Either ending works for me.  For that matter, you wouldn’t want to arrive at the cinema late either because if you miss the first 5 minutes, you won’t have a clue what’s going on.

There are some amazing scenes early in the film where Jim walks through the deserted London streets.  These scenes were shot very early in the morning and with council approval, crew members blocked off streets to ensure no one would wander on camera to ruin the shot.  When you consider some of the locations include the heart of London and the M1 motorway, it’s quite an achievement.  Danny Boyle produces where few other directors could.

If you notice the different visual style, you’d be interested to know the film was shot with digital cameras to give it a realistic look.  Boyle uses the lighting to great effect and combined with precise editing, it truly is a horrifyingly genuine film.  28 Days Later is undoubtedly a film to be seen and more importantly, to be remembered.