Reader Requests – 28 Days Later (2002)

Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary. (IMDB synopsis)

Guess who’s back with a brand new rap review!
And here I was thinking I’d finished with zombie movies. Although I remain unconvinced that 28 Days Later even IS a zombie film (I’ll get to that), everyone seems to think it’s a zombie film, so I suppose it must count. It’s been requested by my friend Jennifer, who is fine with spoilers because she doesn’t plan to actually watch it. That’s fair enough; hopefully I can give her the gist.

Review:

At the start of this one, a chimp is seen hooked up to several TV monitors, all depicting scenes of war, violence, torture etc. And if A Clockwork Orange is anything to go by, this set-up should be convincing the chimp that violence is wrong – about time too, I hate chimps, those vicious little so-and-sos. Never mind, here come some animal rights activists to bugger things up, just like the ones in Black Sheep. A scientist warns the lot of them not to release the chimps as they’re ‘infected with rage’ and are highly contagious. Of course, they ignore him, and one girl gets herself bitten and infected.

28 Days Later…

Jim, played by Cillian Murphy, wakes up from a coma in a deserted hospitaaaaaargh, OK, he’s naked, he’s nude. Yup. Fair enough. To be expected. He puts on a pair of scrubs and goes around looking for some other peeps who can explain the situation. Unfortunately, the whole of London has become a ghost town, which is actually quite a chilling thing to behold. Must have been a real headache for the filmmakers to organise, even for a mere minute of footage.
After an encounter with a raving rabid priest and various other Infected, Jim’s picked up by a couple of hardened survivor types, Mark and Selena, who bring him up to speed. Mark doesn’t last very long, and it’s not until they meet ex-taxi driver Frank and his daughter that they start to formulate a plan for their ultimate safety.
28 Days Later is often described as the film that re-invented the zombie film genre. Now, I’ve already touched on what I believe makes a zombie. They ought to be undead (or at least under the influence of some outside power, e.g. voodoo); they may be fast- or slow-moving; they may or may not have a healing factor; they may or may not be capable of turning normal humans into one of them; and they should have a taste for flesh and/or brains. In my opinion, THIS film comes closer to a plague/pandemic movie such as Contagion or Outbreak (in which the cause of infection also had to do with primates. When will people learn?). The Infected are rage-filled, ergo speedy, and although they can be a bit bitey, they don’t eat flesh or brains as such. In fact, they don’t really eat anything – too busy being angry at everything – so they don’t live long. The film plays into a modern fear of disease, as opposed to classic zombie fare which had more to do with fears at the time of the effects of nuclear power. According to IMDB, 28 Days Later was inspired by said classic zombie fare and was a conscious effort by both scriptwriter and director to make the zombie film genre more contemporary. So, is it a plague/pandemic flick or a zombie flick? …I don’t know. Make of it what you will.
Where was I? Oh yeah. Now, Jen asked for this film because she wanted to know if it was worth watching. And the answer to that iiiiiiiis yes. It is worth watching.
First of all, the characters are distinctive and interesting, as well as relatable. There’s Jim, the eternal optimist who takes a little while to become a badass. There’s Selena, the full flower of badassery, albeit firm and embittered by her experiences in the zompocalypse. Then there’s Frank, who is my favourite and also a badass father figure. Resourceful, kind, protective… and doomed to die because of it. His daughter Hannah is quite cool on paper, especially considering she can drive her father’s cab, but she has this perpetually vacant expression and vocal tone. At first I assumed it had to do with the loss of her mother, but it probably has more to do with the actress. And lastly, there are the soldiers later in the film, lead by Major West who is played by Chrisopher Ecclestone doing an… interesting accent. He’s quite enjoyably diabolical, but if I told you why that was, I’d be spoiling one of the film’s best plot twists. You’ll just have to watch it and see.
Second of all, the film’s shot in a grainy and gritty fashion, which I think is a nice touch. If the film looked really decent and polished, it wouldn’t feel half as credible. You’d always be thinking, “Oh, what a palaver… but it’s only a film.” This way, it’s almost like the filmmakers themselves are a part of the apocalypse. However, they never go too far the other way with reckless use of shaky-cam. A lot of shots are highly impressive in tone and scale, such as the deserted London, or the city of Manchester being wholly engulfed in fire. I suppose Danny Boyle figured, ‘go big or go home’.
Thirdly! I really appreciated the fact that 28 Days Later‘s fast-paced, terror-filled scenes are interspersed with moments of levity. It’s really nice sometimes to see the characters interact in comparatively normal situations. And it works yet again as a way of getting the viewer to relate to and sympathise with the characters. That could be any one of our families packing up the car and heading to a place of safety.
Aaaand fourthly, I completely fell in love with the film’s soundtrack. The music ranges from peaceful and serene, reflecting the beauty of the natural surroundings, or dark and intense, reflecting the, er, dark intensity of the later scenes. Which I said I wouldn’t spoil. Mwah ha ha.

Final Verdict:

Worth seeing! And sufficiently removed from normal zombie territory as not to trigger certain people’s completely rational phobia of the things. Also, there’s a sequel that I haven’t yet seen, 28 Weeks Later, but I’m sure I’ll watch it at some point, as it has Robert Carlyle in it. Hopefully he’s just as enjoyably diabolical as Ecclestone; they both do well with those kinds of characters.

Rating:

8 jam sandwiches.

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