28 Days Later (2002), Run-time 112mins, Cert 18.

Director - Danny Boyle.

Writer - Alex Garland.

Starring - Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson & Megan Burns.


Premise - A group of animal activists release a monkey infected with the RAGE virus from its cage. The monkey bites one of the female activists and within seconds she is infected, becoming a ravenous, blood hungry creature. 28 days later Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed, the last thing he can remember is being in a motor vehicle accident. Jim wanders out of the hospital into the streets, everything is deserted and there are signs of mass hysteria. The usually bustling streets of London are completely quiet. What happened to everyone? Will Jim find more survivors?

If you have seen a few of Danny Boyle’s films you will realise that he likes to split his films into two distinct halves, each having a different tone to the other. Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, The Beach, they all changed tone about halfway through and moved onto something different. The same thing can be said of 28 Days Later, and whilst in the majority of his other films (The Beach not withstanding) the shift in tone works, in 28 Days Later it signals the point where the film goes drastically down hill.

The opening scenes of 28 Days Later are incredibly effective. The prologue showing the ‘ground zero’ of the infection is particularly well done. We are basically fed a bucket load of exposition in a five minute scene. This means that we are completely set up for the rest of the film and we can just sit back and enjoy the action.

When we open on Jim in the hospital bed we enter the next phase of the movie. Jim wakes up and exits the deserted hospital to find…… a deserted London. Boyle worked wonders to create a completely eerie feel to the usually jam packed centre of London. Deserted streets, overturned busses, abandoned cars, billboards with pictures of lost loved ones, this is impressive stuff. The moment where Jim approaches an abandoned car had me jumping five feet in the air!

Jim moves through the abandoned streets and enters a church. The church is carpeted by dead bodies; it’s here that we get our first sight of The Infected. Unlike zombies in previous films that could be outrun by moving up to a brisk pace, The Infected sprint towards you like a crazed madman on PCP.

The make up work on The Infected is also very impressive. Unlike the horrible looking CGI gore of last years yawn-fest ‘Resident Evil’ or the decaying brilliance of the Romero films; The Infected’s make-up is very minimalistic. Aside from some ragged clothes and a bit of dirt they could pass for regular humans, if it wasn’t for the eyes. The most striking feature of The Infected is their blood read and yellow eyes. It’s a very simple, but very effective technique and has some nice pay off’s later in the film.

As Jim escapes from The Infected he meets up with a couple of survivors. Here we are introduced to Selena, a tough woman who has been fighting off The Infected for 4 weeks. As they move on they also meet up with the father and daughter pairing of Frank and Hannah. The group present an interesting dynamic. Selena is a tough fighter who doesn’t like to let anyone in, but through interacting with Frank and Hannah she realises that contact and company is important and she gradually softens. Naomie Harris really impresses in this role and I feel that this could be the work that gets her a lot of bigger parts.

Jim is almost the polar opposite to Selena. He starts off a lost man, not much of a fighter. But, again thanks to the inclusion of Frank and Hannah to the group he is given something to fight for and as the film draws to an end we see Jim unleash a side of himself that he nor anyone else new he had. In order to protect his new family he is forced to draw on deep emotions and in a sense becomes as dangerous as The Infected. Jim is brought to life wonderfully by Cillian Murphy. He is an actor that I have never seen before, but I look forward to his next role.

Brendan Gleeson is always a joy to watch and he is no different here. Frank is caring and loving towards his daughter, but is capable of flicking a switch and doing what is required to protect her. Megan Burns is good as Hannah, her role is little more than a damsel in distress type part, but she does well in some difficult later scenes.

So, the first half of the movie is pretty much excellent, with some cracking action and nifty, tension filled set pieces. Where it all goes wrong is when they decide to head to a checkpoint near Manchester to find a group of soldiers who are sending out a radio broadcast. The film shifts dramatically in tone from taught, clever zombie flick to a bog standard slasher flick.

Sure, Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland try and dress the last 45 minutes up as some kind of commentary on the nature of man, but at the basest level it is nothing more then a standard slasher movie. Also, the reasoning behind the soldier’s motivations is utterly unconvincing. Although, that said there are some very nice touches in the final 45 minutes. Most notably a nice homage to Day of the Dead (I won’t spoil it, fans will know what I am talking about) and the final action sequence.

Boyle uses digital video to shoot the film which looks great on the DVD, but I hear it looks a bit murky when blown up to a full cinema screen. Regardless, the format allows for some nice effects. Principally is the sort of stuttering, strobe effect that is used whenever The Infected are seen. It adds tremendously to the look and feel of these creatures as they charge. This effect is even more impressive in the final rain soaked action sequence; it’s a very cool looking scene indeed.

It should also be noted that the closing scene is the kind of tie everything in a neat bow, happy ending that I have bad dreams about. The DVD has two alternate endings, one is a slight change to the last 3 minutes that is currently on the film, but is nonetheless a vast improvement. The other is in storyboard format and goes in another direction altogether from just before the soldiers show up. It’s a pity they couldn’t have gotten around the niggling issues that they had with this ending as it would have been vastly superior to the entire final 45 minutes as they currently stand.

I shouldn’t be too hard on 28 Days Later as the first half is excellent and it is always nice to see a British film that isn’t a costume drama or sappy romantic comedy. It’s just a shame that the last 45 minutes couldn’t keep up what the first half started. File the film under ‘missed opportunity’.



See 28 Days Later if you enjoyed – The Omega Man, Resident Evil, The Dead Trilogy.

Poster Quote – Is this a sequel to that Sandra Bullock movie?