by Ian Sputnik
28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Twentieth Century Fox
28 Days Later leapt upon our screens in 2002. A group of animal activists raid a facility in order to release primates that are being experimented on. The scientists’ aim is to find out what causes anger in humans. They have managed to synthetize a virus which causes this intense emotion within us; and by injecting the primates with this, they hope to study and understand it better. Their end game is to find a cure, and thus stop conflict and war throughout the world.
This plan, obviously, doesn’t go too well. The rage virus which has been introduced to the apes’ bodies is transmittable via saliva and blood. The activists are attacked and so the story begins.
Skipping forward 28 days, a young man, Jim (Cillian Murphy), awakes in a private hospital room after being in a coma following a serious accident. He is oblivious to what has been unleashed upon the country. Murphy gives a tremendous performance in the lead role.
This was a cutting edge film. It was one of the first mainstream movies to be filmed purely in digital format, giving it a very harsh and grainy feel.
Jim leaves his locked hospital room with the use of a key that has been slipped under the door. There are no opening credits. The film name is only added as a subtitle as he wanders through a deserted London, which is a scene of post-riot/anarchy. No one remains, or so it seems.
As the story unfolds, through encounters with the ‘infected’, Jim bands together with other survivors: Selena (Naomie Harris), a tough young lady with a determination to survive; Frank, a London Taxi driver (excellently played by Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter, Hannah (Megan Burns). They receive a radio message to go to a ‘safe haven’ and so they set off in Frank’s cab.
It’s very reminiscent of the remake of Dawn of the Dead featuring fast moving zombies, which fans of the slow moving zombie genre have always had a love/hate relation with. The scene where the survivors stock up on supplies in a supermarket, is a wink to the original version of Dawn of the Dead, by the late, great George A. Romero (the father of the zombie genre). A social commentary on the things we take for granted, and the human desire for the luxuries in life, even at the end of the world.
There are touching scenes which are genuinely heartfelt. The suspense, at times, is nerve racking. The violence is very often only alluded to, with the camera following the main characters as they flee, leaving your imagination to fill the gaps as to what’s happening out of frame.
The characters are believable. The settings of London—deserted and riot torn—is haunting. The interactions with other survivors are touching and terrifying.
The music heightens the intensity of each scene. John Murphy hits the spot with In the house-In a heartbeat, which is the main theme throughout. The crescendo builds slowly to create tension, especially during the action scenes.
But is this a horror? For the majority of its runtime, we’d argue it’s a drama with the ever-present threat of violence, with the sexual tension between Jim and Selena giving it strong romantic undertones. Although there are zombies, and the constant worry of infection, the heart of the movie centers around people, and what waits for them on the horizon.
Either way, this is a must see film, and we’ll let you be the final judge as to what genre it is.