Nice! So I just watched 28 Days Later (2002) for the second time and it totally rocks! Not only is it as scary as all hell, it's extremely well made, acted, and directed. Cillian Murphy does an excellent job as Jim. Beginning with him awakening from a coma in an abandoned hospital to his merciless vigilante killing spree at the end, the audience experiences the protagonist's numerous character transformations throughout the film. Armed with an excellent script, good actors, and masterful cinematography, Danny Boyle brings to life a frightening and realistic story of human survival. At the core 28 Days Later is about human nature and what people will do to survive when faced with life and death situations. The fact that it is a zombie story completely enhances the desperation and ecstasy of the horrors in this film. It is executed with great precision, a trait that is not common to most zombie films. I had at least 2 really good jumps so watch out! This film has it all: brutal survival, rabid zombies, and the evilness of true human nature. Hopefully you enjoyed 28 Days Later as much as I did, and if you haven't seen it yet, proceed with caution.
In essence I think this film is really more about human nature than zombies. The entire second half of the film carries a sinister black mood as you discover that the military plans to gang rape the two women. The men dress the women in red dresses, a color which represents lust, fertility, and anger. As Jim escapes and slaughters the military the audience experiences Jim's rage and adrenalin. Especially in his dream sequence, Jim's greatest fear isn't of being devoured by infected humans, but fear of being alone, much like the military men being promised women in exchange for suicide. Without children, family, and friends, there is no reason to live.
28 Days Later has a clever narrative, keeping the viewer always on edge. A careful watch reveals perfection in Boyle's design. You may have noticed that when Jim awakens from a coma, that his head is partly shaved and you can see a large scar under his short hair. This could be evidence of brain surgery, possibly even experimentation on Jim's brain which made him immune to the infection. The significance of brains in zombie films is perfectly mirrored by Jim's brain surgery scar. Maybe that's taking it too far, but it shows how every detail contributes to create a convincing reality. The film is investigative, always speculating. Is the infection just a return to nature? Is is only in London? The characters are afraid and alone, transmitting fear and insecurity to the audience.
The imagery is incredible with empty cities and wide expanses contrasted by Jim, who wonders alone through oblivion, juxtaposed by a female face on a billboard. Ironically, the first thing that Jim encounters is an infected zombie minister (or is it a priest?). Later we see Frank leave his credit card at the grocery store. This is humorous for the audience and characters but the real motive of this gesture symbolizes the characters leaving the old world of civilization behind.
I could drag on analyzing each great moment in 28 Days Later but I'll spare you. As a whole I really enjoyed this film. It's a top shelf horror drama that's freaky, believable, and disgustingly beautiful.
28 Days Later has some incredible cinematography for a zombie flick. Let's face it, the typical zombie film is a B budget, point and shoot blood bath. This film boasts a careful selection of unsettling camera angles and creative visual compositions, all which contribute to its ruthless beauty. There are countless reflections, mirrored images, and shots looking through holes and windows. The exquisite camerawork constantly utilizes high, low, and tilted unsettling angles, keeping the audience off balance and unsure. The cinematography accomplishes the feeling of complete emptiness while dazzling us with subtle reflections, emotional closeups, and jumping out of your chair surprises. In contrast there is a beautiful artistic sequence of wild horses roaming freely unbound by the zombie apocalypse. The realism in 28 Days Later causes complete audience immersion in the film, allowing for extremely frightening and unexpected surprises. Each visual composition in this film is artistic and well planned, giving it some of the absolute best cinematography I have ever seen, not just in the horror genre, but in the entire mainstream film industry.
My favorite part about the special effects in 28 Days Later is that they are subtle and used sparingly. The film is so well made that it doesn't need to compensate with huge explosions and extended gratuitous closeups. When we do get to see the infected closeup we see that they are extremely well designed. With blood filled eyeballs to decaying flesh, 28 Days Later gets the special effects right by not overdoing it. Everything in this film appears realistic and was obviously meticulously crafted, edited, and animated. There are a few cuts that will guarantee you yelling out loud.
The acting in 28 days later is flat out great. Not many zombie movies have such a high quality cast. The dialogue in the film is infrequent, giving the characters plenty of room for visual storytelling. At no point was I questioning the realism of any character's persona. Cillian Murphy does an excellent job as Jim throughout the film. His character undergoes a complete transformation from a weak and helpless hospital patient, to a ruthless killer, bent on saving the one person left in the world that he has feelings for. Similarly, Naomie Harris does an excellent job playing Selena, the ruthless apocalypse survivor, ready to kill any human or zombie that may threaten her safety. But by the end she breaks out of her hard exterior shell, undergoing a major character transformation, exposing her trust and love for Jim. In addition to the solid performances by the protagonists, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, and Megan Burns do an excellent job supporting Murphy and Harris. From the activists at the beginning, to the frightening military at the end, this film doesn't have a single weak link in its performance or dramatization.
The music in 28 Days Later is sparse and complimentary to the film's absent landscapes and total emptiness. The majority of the film has total silence with only diegetic noises, adding to its excellent realism. The infrequency of music and the presence of silence in the beginning of the movie is the perfect introduction of Jim to his new desolate world. The first song of note is a slow depressing rock track that creeps in as we watch images of Jim wandering the streets of London alone.
Interspersed throughout the film are well executed and subtle underlying compositions. Many are ambient and ominous but a few are uplifting and euphoric, such as the music placed behind the scene of the wild horses. The climax of the film features a thrilling but slow paced rock track that contributes to the energy and inevitable blood slaughter during Jim's revenge.
Narrative Summary & Analysis
The opening montage depicts news reel footage of an intense zombie apocalypse, known as the "infection," setting the tone of the film not as a zombie fantasy story, but as a frightening realistic possibility. The abrupt cuts and graphic imagery foreshadow the perfect feeling of paranoia and fear. Then as the camera pulls out you are brought face to face with a monkey test subject sporting brain plugs. Animal rights activists release the monkeys who are infected with the RAGE. The infection can be transmitted to humans with only one drop of blood.
The story begins with the protagonist, Jim, who awakens from a coma only to find the entire hospital building abandoned. Confused, bewildered, and naked, Jim wonders where society went during his nap. He faces the infected alone before discovering two ruthless survivors, Mark and Selena. Mark and Selena fill Jim in; London is in complete fallout with no government, no communication, and a serious zombie infestation. Rule one, never travel alone, unless you have no choice. Rule two, never travel at night, unless you have no choice. Although Mark and Selena are skeptical, they speculate that it is possible the destruction is only in London. But their darkest fears tell them the entire world has been consumed by the plague.
In a zombie battle Mark is cut and and presumed infected. Jim watches in horror as Selena hacks Mark to death with a machete. Selena, played by Naomie Harris, explains that she wouldn't hesitate to do the same to Jim in a heartbeat – a statement that gets put to the test at the end of the film.
Jim and Selena climb a tower in an attempt escape a gang of infected. They meet up with a Father and Daughter, Frank and Hannah, who have located a radio beacon, giving a location, promising salvation from the infection. The four head out in an old black vehicle, crossing wide expanses of empty freeways and having lunch in an abandoned European ruin. After narrowly escaping from a zombie attack in a dark traffic-jammed tunnel, they find nothing at the given location. Frank horribly receives a drop of blood to his eye, which infects him in seconds. Before Jim and Selena can attack the newly created zombie he is taken out by a band of camouflaged snipers, which surprisingly is the first gun we see in this zombie flick.
The militia leader, Major Henry West, played by Christopher Eccleston, can only offer firepower and protection from the infected, proving the radio beacon is a lie. Quickly it is revealed that West has promised his army females as a last salvation for the human race. As the militia get ready to rape the two women they take Jim and another sympathetic to be executed in the forest. In the confusion Jim hides in a pile of dead bodies and escapes as he and the audience unexpectedly see a plane flying high overhead. This gives Jim hope of organized resistance and the salvation of the human race.
The final portion of this film is an adrenalin pumping experience. Jim sets a captured zombie loose on the militia and silently assassinates them one at a time. As Jim rescues Selena the underlying romance comes out, symbolizing the need for love and the humanitarian will to survive. At the very end of the film, exactly twenty eight days later, it shows Jim, Selena, and Hannah surviving off the land. They appear happy living in a mountain cabin, safe, and displaced from the zombie massacre. A lone fighter jet zooms up the valley as they spread out a huge SOS signal reading "hello." The jet makes a quick 180 degree turn and the characters (and audience) are filled with hope, giving this dark film an unexpected uplifting ending.