Fresh yet derivative, the offbeat quality of Boyle’s ‘zombie’ film pulls it through.
Dir. Danny Boyle
2002 | UK | Horror/Thriller | 113 mins | 1.85:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for strong violence and gore, language and nudity
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson
Plot: Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed on DVD – first published on 14 Mar 2009)
For a filmmaker who has tried his hand in as many genres as he could, 28 Days Later is still a departure for Danny Boyle, the British director of acclaimed films such as Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Trainspotting (1996). In a long line of zombie films, 28 Days Later is nowhere near the crème de la crème; neither is it altogether a forgettable motion picture. Yet it is a distinctive effort by Boyle whose unique filmmaking style is there for fans to savor.
28 Days Later depicts the aftermath of a deadly epidemic that infects humans through blood, locking them in a permanent state of uncontrolled rage. Survivors are few. One of them, Jim (Cillian Murphy), awakes in a deserted hospital unscathed. He meets a few uninfected people, who then band together in a desperate attempt to salvage the future of humanity.
By definition, 28 Days Later is not exactly a zombie flick. Zombies are the living dead. In Boyle’s film, the Infected (as they are called in the movie) are more than alive. They charge at you at lightning speed. This trait allows the filmmakers to fashion a film that is more thrilling than horrifying. Boyle ignores the use of ‘jump scenes’, thus those anticipating ‘Boo!’ moments will be disappointed.
Instead, for every attack by an Infected on the protagonists, Boyle edits the film in such a way that viewers will for a couple of seconds have a quick glimpse of the Infected dashing towards the victim before the actual attack. This technique gives viewers a huge rush of suspense and a legitimate reason to scream at the protagonists in a futile bid to warn them.
28 Days Later is shot in Britain. As we follow the pursuits of Jim and co. as they head toward a military base a.k.a The Answer to Infection in a stolen classic black London cab, Boyle (and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle) takes the opportunity to photograph the country’s beautiful landscape in extravagant hues of colors. This when juxtaposed with the lonely existence of the protagonists gives a very strange everything-looks-normal-but-it-feels-unsettling atmosphere to the film.
As for almost every Boyle picture, the music used is nothing but special. He has a natural gift of marrying sight and sound together in an almost dizzying fashion. 28 Days Later is strong entertainment packaged in an offbeat style; a fresh alternative even though it is derivative. It has an optimistic ending which sadly softens the climactic payoff when a bleaker one could have left a more resonant impact.