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CLASSICS: 28 Days Later (2003)

June 30, 2013


(originally written on March 28, 2009 and is being re-posted as part of the Keeping It Reel CLASSIC series)


written by: Alex Garland

produced by: Andrew Macdonald

directed by: Danny Boyle

rating: R (for strong violence and gore, language and nudity) 

runtime: 116 min.

U.S. release date: June 27, 2003

DVD/Blu-ray release date: October 21, 2003


As much as I love a good zombie film, it was a relief to learn that this wasn’t just another zombie film. In fact, it wasn’t a zombie film at all, yet it’s obvious why it’s been categorized in that flesh-eating genre. Anytime a film opens with bloodthirsty, virus-infected monkeys being released by well-meaning British animal activists, you just know the story is going nowhere good.

28 days later….

Bicycle courier, Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens in a London hospital bed to find himself left alone. He walks into the street to find that there’s no one there. The world seems to have emptied out completely, which is a remarkably creepy and impressive accomplishment by director Boyle, especially on a somewhat low-budget and in a major city. The scenes of Jim wandering desolate London are very haunting and impacting. You can’t help but to imagine what you would think if this were to happen.

Soon, Jim learns what is going on: first, he’s attacked by one of the infected and then saved by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), a couple of survivors who inform him about what happened. A virus that sends the infected into a bloodthirsty rage has spread through the population, and has become a ravaging epidemic. Anything we’re used to is gone; no government, no police, no army, no television, no radio and no electricity.

The picture is a mixture of psychological horror, road movie and the old-fashioned gory thriller. There’s a strong sense of melancholy and sadness underlying the film, brought on by much of the stories the survivors tell of the last moments before the lights went out.




But, really, that’s the film’s trick: once viewers have been pulled into the lives of these characters and their pasts, out pop the infected! Boyle turns a flat tire in a dark tunnel into one of the most suspenseful scenes in all of film. While most movies in this genre try to have it both ways and go for both popcorn scares and/or legitimate character development, they often fail to do both. What we have here is a genuine balance.

The film’s soundtrack doesn’t use the familiar shock cords of the “horror” score, really: the whole soundtrack becomes a shock cord, exploding with music and sound effects that shatter any stillness. Digital video film is a nice touch, filmed on DV to both lower the budget and give the film a surreal appearance. In doing so it achieves a look that effectively capture the atmosphere, giving it a horrifying realism. The creative camera angles also add to the surreal and disorienting feeling. The performances are all solid.  Murphy, Harris and Huntley are quite believable as the main trio of survivors, while Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns are superb as the father/daughter pair that join the band of humans looking for an answer to the virus. Christopher Eccelston does a fine job as the secretive commander of a near-deserted military base the survivors reach.

I really liked what Boyle did here. Its plot may not be entirely original, it does manage to craft a surprisingly believable environment though and offer strong characters that the audience grows to care about. The second half of the film, once the film reaches the military base, starts to really become a bit more predictable, but by then we’re so hooked that it doesn’t matter. While stretches of the film are saddening and powerful, there’s also a few frightening shockers. Boyle doesn’t revolutionize horror here and it isn’t anything really groundbreaking, but it is undoubtedly excellently done where it matters.




RATING: ****




Keeping It Reel CLASSICS is a feature that showcases movies that we deem as simply, classics.  Old or new, they somehow resonate and stand out in our cinematic memory. We invite you to discover them yourselves, again or for the first time. Others (listed below) can be found be typing in CLASSIC in the subject box in the top right.
Once (2007)                                                                          
One Comment leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    June 30, 2013 1:24 pm

    personally, I loved the surprise at the end. I really enjoyed this movie. I’m not normally a fan of ‘horror’ movie, but I watched it a year or so later when I kept hearing that it wasn’t a typical horror movie. The opening scenes where the guy wakes up and he’s the only one left was brilliant. I was hooked from that moment on. 🙂

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