28 Days Later

Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson

Director: Danny Boyle

Zombies eh? Speaking from childhood film-viewing experience, there has always been something very scary in a primal sort of way about dead people who come back to life and want to eat your brains. In 28 DAYS LATER, thanks to writer Alex Garland (THE BEACH) and director Danny Boyle (TRAINSPOTTING), they have had a 21st century makeover: these are zombies with attitude.

Long gone are the scruffily dressed flesh-eaters of yesteryear, who stagger around slowly with random limbs falling off, bumping into each other, groaning in a bored fashion and eating the odd human. The zombies in 28 DAYS LATER sprint around the streets of Britain at high speed, screaming dementedly, occasionally pausing to cough up a bucketful of blood. They mean business.

Why are these zombies so crazy? Well they are the result of a bunch of hippies storming a government research lab and liberating some caged monkeys, unaware that these are no ordinary monkeys: the hapless primates have been instilled with a concentrated rage and upon their release this ‘rage’ virus permeates the whole island turning all the lovely Britons into zombified lunatics. Most of the uninfected manage to flee the septic isle before the whole of it is quarantined, whilst a few unlucky souls didn’t quite make it to the airport on time.

One such loser and ‘hero’ of the film is the heroically named Jim who awakes from a coma 28 days later in a London hospital to find that the whole city has scarpered without telling him. After being chased around for a while by some local rage freaks he hooks up with three survivors: a cool city chick, a chirpy Cockney cabbie and his little girl. Their search for other survivors leads them via a radio broadcast to a group of soldiers shacked up in a stately home in the north of England. However any chance of salvation is lost in the soldiers’ own plans for survival, which turn out to be very unpleasant indeed.

Boyle and Garland have really done the business with this film. They’ve managed to blend the genres of thriller, horror and adventure and create a movie that is thrilling, horrifying and engaging in equal parts. The infected zombies are frightening on a visceral level and make for very tense viewing, especially when they keep suddenly jumping through windows and scaring the hell out of you. The bleak post-apocalyptic landscape they inhabit is conveyed with cogent effectiveness, from the gritty digital video format on which it was recorded to the eerie abandoned London scenes where Jim wanders across a bare Westminster bridge, through a silent Trafalgar Square and around a deserted Piccadilly Circus.

It’s also strange viewing a British film that is both big-budget and high quality without featuring any big names in the acting department. Christopher Eccleston, who featured in Danny Boyle’s SHALLOW GRAVE, is the most famous face on parade and he doesn’t even turn up till the final third. Newcomer Cillian Murphy, as the bewildered Irishman Jim, shines with the potential to become a big, big player on a world stage and should be getting calls from Hollywood in no time.

Speaking of Hollywood, it’s also refreshing to see that there are no heroes, no melodrama and that no one saves the day. The film’s only discernible problem is the soundtrack which is, quite frankly, rubbish: annoying tunes pop up sporadically, especially during the film’s dark APOCALYPSE NOW-style coda where a lot of bloodshed is backed by some sort of chirpy indie song. But apart from these sonic blips, 28 DAYS LATER is a success in every possible way and will stay with you for a long time.

5 out of 6 stars

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