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Movie Review: 28 Days Later

28 Days Later
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Alex Garland
Fox Searchlight, 2003

After British Danny Boyle became a star director in 1996 with Trainspotting, he made two films no one watched in A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach, and then seemed to fade into obscurity.  Out of nowhere came 28 Days Later, shot on digital video and in the United States becoming a nice summer alternative.  It launched the careers of several actors who are on the verge of stardom today.

Jim (Cillian Murphy, later the Scarecrow in Batman Begins) awakes from a coma in a hospital to find it abandoned.  He eventually leaves and finds all of London desolate, an eerily large ghost town.  When he steps into a church he is attacked by people infected with “Rage,” a virus that has made its way out of a laboratory after an animal rights group sets free some chimps that were infected.  The Infected move at a frightening speed.

Saving Jim is Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Naomie Harris, later of Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest and Miami Vice), who fill Jim in on the details and the rules.  Selena seems a bit cold-blooded but it’s her way of survival: when Mark gets a scratch from one of the Infected she doesn’t hesitate in hacking Mark up.  Jim and Selena find dad Frank (Brendan Gleeson, one of the bigger names in the cast) and daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) and they soon set off to a military location being broadcast on a radio promising safe haven and a cure for the virus.

What they find is a disorganized bunch of troops, led by Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston, best known for TV’s Heroes these days, but another semi-known actor like Gleeson).  Their behavior is just as scary as any zombie and our heroes find themselves in a bad situation.

This movie actually got my blood pumping, which is rare in any horror movie.  The way Boyle uses his camera and cuts his scenes, you’ll be watching a normal conversation taking place and then all of the sudden, a quick cut to a speedy first-person perspective heading towards a house, then the dreaded inevitable.  This is the attack, but you won’t see it coming.  Boyle’s creepy camera angles also provide a sense of unease.

So it’s scary, and it does its job.  But if you want subtext, there’s loads of it to be found in all of this.  Comments on the military, racism, animal rights, and violence can be discussed.  For a movie shot on an $8 million budget, it’s a very rich zombie movie, one that should stand alongside George Romero’s hallowed Night of the Living Dead series.  This is the second time I’ve seen the movie, and it’s even better on this go-around.

28 Days Later made $45 million in the U.S. and an additional $37 million in other markets to become a solid hit.  Quite surely the movie has gained an even bigger following on video and hence, we’ll be seeing the sequel 28 Weeks Later on May 11.

Next: 28 Weeks Later 

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