MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Horror Drama/ Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston, Noah Huntley, Stuart McQuarrie, Ricci Harnett, Leo Bill, Luke Mably, Junior Laniyan, Ray Panthaki, Sanjay Rambaruth, Marvin Campbell, Alex Palmer, Bindu De Stoppani, Jukka Hiltunen, David Schneider, Christopher Dunne, Emma Hitching, Toby Sedgwick/Runtime: 113 minutes
I think it’s safe to start this review off by saying that if you go into the slice of cinema that I am reviewing today, 2002’s 28 Days Later, and think that it is a follow-up to that one film Sandra Bullock did where she played an alcoholic called 28 Days….you might be on the wrong track about that. I mean for starters I could be wrong, but the first hint that this is most assuredly not what you are thinking is the fact that everyone in this is speaking with a British accent whilst the second hint might just be how downright terrifying and visceral this slice of cinema tends to get especially when the rage-infected people start wrecking bloody havoc. Indeed this visceral and downright scary slice of cinema may be viewed by many as a film in the subcategory of horror cinema known as a zombie flick, but unlike the undead that many associate with the Dead trilogy brought to us by George A. Romero these creatures were never dead to begin with. Merely these creatures are ones that have been infected with a “rage” grounded pathogen that seriously could be solved with some relaxing breathing techniques and a good session or 3 at a massage parlor. Jokes aside, there is no denying that by choosing to pay loving tribute to the work done by other horror slices of cinema from years gone past whilst also sculpting and molding one that is just as much drama as it is horror and also making it as realistic as possible, immensely talented film helmer Danny Boyle with this slice of cinema has managed to conjure up something quite distinct and novel for movie lovers. Indeed 28 Days Later really truly is a riveting and engrossing slice of cinema that reveals what humanity might choose to do if a situation such as a rage virus infecting the majority of the population pushed our backs up against the wall to say nothing of just how far people may go when faced with the choice of either killing others or being killed themselves. Of course the fact that this engrossing content is being packaged in a, for all intents and purposes, horror film might see a fair amount of people choose to give this the cold shoulder, but for those who are either willing to overlook this slice of cinema’s horror roots or who love horror cinema trust me when I say you are in for quite a treat.
The plot is as follows: 28 Days Later gets its haunting narrative underway as we see are taken to a top-secret research lab in Cambridge where a group of monkeys is having experiments conducted on them in order to test a highly transmissible and quite destructive rage virus. Things soon go awry however when this rage virus is accidentally unleashed when a team of individuals belonging to that distinct subculture known as the animal liberation movement break into the place and, against the pleas of one of the researchers, set these disease-stricken chimps free only to fall prey to this deadly virulent strain themselves. From there we see that in the aftermath of 28 days having come and gone since this particular incident (hence the title), a solitary courier by the name of Jim wakes up in a hospital that we soon learn has been completely and utterly abandoned. Yet it isn’t just the hospital that has been abandoned; rather it is the entire country of Great Britain it appears that has been the subject of a massive exodus. Yet while our intrepid hero is busy trying to find anything he could wear, use, or eat we see him walk into a church only to stumble upon both a massive pile of dead bodies and a zombieesque priest who sees Jim as a fresh meal. So it is that when he is running away from the church that our hero is saved by a pair of fellow survivors by the names of Selena and Mark who take him back to their “base” and reveal what’s going on in full. Namely that in the aftermath of the incident at the research lab, the virus managed to get out and infiltrate seemingly everywhere from London to small little towns in the countryside at such a frightening rate of speed that it annihilated the vast majority of Britain’s armed forces and centers of government. Along with that, we also learn that those who become infected with this virus are swift, homicidal to a t, and also typically do their thing at night as well as the fact that the way you become infected is either by being bit by someone who is infected or if an infected person’s blood gets in your mouth or another orifice on your body. Thus with those facts established, we see our heroes decide to embark on a distinct odyssey. One that may see them head from locale to locale, gain and tragically lose people, and go up against sinister forces of both these rage creatures and evils that are still on the human side, but which ultimately has one goal in mind and that is no more and no less than to find a place where they can truly be safe and begin to hopefully restore the human populace anew…
Now in terms of achievements done behind the camera, I think praise most assuredly must be extended to the work done by both the editing and cinematography departments for really enabling you, the viewer to really get to the viscerality and horror that is present in this intriguing narrative right from the very first frame. An accomplishment that this slice of cinema is able to achieve by looking as grainy and handheld, almost like this isn’t a fictional film but rather someone’s home movie (British Zombie Christmas ’02 anyone?) as possible whilst also being as shaky cam and as chaotic as it needs to be. As a result, this slice of cinema is able to make sure that you are completely immersed in the terror and significant unease being felt by everyone throughout this entire slice of cinema. Indeed this is a film that makes it pretty darn clear early on that not only should a situation of calm never be taken for granted, but that there is also not a single person in this who is ever at any point in time 100% safe from an imminent or truly heart wrenching demise. A crucial lesson that this slice of cinema may teach its characters through significant emotional agony, but which ultimately helps them and the viewer really learn to cherish the moments of serenity and calm when they get them a whole lot more. Finally, I also think praise must be given to film helmer Danny Boyle and screenplay writer Alex Garland for endowing this slice of cinema with a wonderful degree of realism that hadn’t been seen in zombie cinema since at least the first 3 Dead films helmed by George A. Romero back in the day. Indeed by not only actually filming on the actual streets of London and have them be given the appearance of being completely and utterly deserted, but by casting (at the time) a collection of little-known actors (with the exceptions being even then already iconic character actors Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston), Boyle and his team are able to make the events that unfold in this slice of cinema’s riveting narrative seem that much more realistic than if they had gone ahead and cast someone like Brad Pitt because as we all know Brad Pitt has *never done a zombie movie before*. Sarcasm aside however dear reader, there is no denying that the creative team behind the camera does a wonderful job at not only bringing the world of this film vividly to life, but making it seem as realistic as possible as well.
Now the other big thing that is working in this slice of cinema’s favor is the fact that it is in possession of a collection of truly fantastic performances even if at the time that this particular slice of cinema was first released 98% of the cast, with the exception of Brendan Gleeson, were completely unknown to American audiences. Even with that in mind though, it still should be said that the performances from this cast are all truly fantastic in every sense of the word. Indeed in the lead role of Jim, we see that Cillian Murphy proved to be, much in the same vein as Ewan McGregor proved to be in his starring role in Boyle’s incredible film Trainspotting from 1996, a wonderful cinematic discovery as he gives us a terrific turn as a guy who is shattered when he wakes up to a world that is completely and horrifically different from the one he remembers and spends the rest of the movie both trying to adjust to this new world and also retain his humanity whilst seemingly everyone else is losing theirs and even his own is beginning to bit by bit slip away. I also think applause should be given to Naomie Harris who is terrific as Selena who starts out this hardened zombie warrior just trying to make it day by day, but who starts to slowly but surely find her humanity again thanks to Jim as well as terrific character actors Brendan Gleeson as a doting and loving father that becomes part of Jim and Selena’s group alongside his daughter Hannah and Christopher Eccleston as a seemingly upstanding military officer with a nefarious side to him respectively. Suffice it to say the cast does a terrific job at not only playing their respective parts, but in making them seem less like characters in a movie and more like real people.
All in all with this slice of cinema there can be no denying that film helmer Danny Boyle and his creative teams both in front of and behind the camera have managed to give audiences a genuinely riveting slice of horror cinema to behold. Yet in addition to scaring you with visceral gore, I think the reason that this film works on the level that it does is because the stuff it asks you to ponder and contemplate often proves to be infinitely more frightening than anything that is shown on screen. As a result what we are left with isn’t just a visceral and riveting slice of cinema, but also one of the more intelligent entries in the realm of horror in the past 2 decades period. Thus definitely check this slice of cinema out if you haven’t already though if you can’t find a physical copy then definitely check on streaming, but whatever you do don’t flip out if you can’t find it because after seeing this film I think we could all do with a little less rage in our lives….. On a scale of 1-5 I give 28 Days Later “02” a solid 4 out of 5.