Friday, April 13, 2012

28 Days Later Movie Review

Danny Boyle is responsible for some great and critically acclaimed films which include 127 Hours (2010) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Once, while discussing zombies with friends, I was shamed for not having seen Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002). Apparently you can’t discuss zombies with any kind of authority without having seen it. I managed to see it recently; now I can talk about zombies.
British animal liberation activists break into a laboratory in Cambridge to free some chimpanzees being used for medical research. A scientist begs them not to free the chimps because they are infected with a virus that causes rage. He is ignored and the chimps escape. Twenty-eight days later, a young man named Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma, alone, and in an abandoned hospital. He wanders out to find London completely empty. Jim draws the attention of some zombie-like humans who begin chasing after him. He’s rescued by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley) who explain about the rage virus and how it has decimated the country in a matter of days. They meet up with man named Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) who are following a radio broadcast promising a cure for the virus. When they reach the source of the radio, they find some corrupt renegade military personnel, lead by Major Henry West (The Doctor Christopher Eccleston). The military platoon quickly proves as much a threat as the rage-zombies.
Zombies have become such a common theme in movies, literature, comic books, and video games that I’m starting to wonder why people in zombie movies don’t seem to know what zombies are when they see them. I know several real people who have zombie survival strategies planned out, yet no one in movies or video games ever seems to have heard of zombies.
I don’t recall hearing the word “zombie” in 28 Days Later. I think that’s a good thing; actually calling them “zombies” would have weakened the movie and made it seem cliché. The infected weren’t your average zombies. They weren’t shambling, decomposing corpses; they were awake, alert, and filled with uncontrollable rage. The rage virus had more of a psychological effect than a physiological one. This seemed like a modern metaphor for social rage (road rage, air rage, etc). Rather than having a virus that kills victims and turns them into monsters, the virus amplifies something negative that is already in each and every person to levels beyond their control. Having the existing negative qualities deteriorate us into monsters is much more disquieting, I think.
Good science fiction makes commentary on contemporary issues in a unique, metaphorical way. The drive behind classic zombie movies revolved around fear of nuclear power and its possible ramifications. I think the rage-virus is more applicable to this generation; society seems much more frightened of disease than of nuclear power. Just think of the real world reactions to anthrax bioterrorism, the bird flu, swine flu, mad cow disease, and foot-and-mouth disease. Does a viral outbreak really terrify us these days more than a nuclear holocaust?
I could go on about the social commentary derived from this excellent film, but how does it stand as a zombie movie? Pretty darn well. Even if you just want to watch a movie about a few people struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse, 28 Days Later is a good movie to watch. It’s got a fairly small cast which gives the movie ample amount of time to develop the characters into people we care about. We even see them spiral downward from a civilized state into a survivalist mentality that doesn’t differentiate them much from the rage-zombies they are trying to avoid, even without becoming infected. And there is plenty of blood splattering gore to appease fans of zombies and the horror genre.
Parts of 28 Days Later are so obviously cheap that it is sometimes distracting. A lot of the sets were claustrophobically small; there even was a scene filmed with a Canon XL1 digital camcorder that anyone could get on However, in spite of its low production budget, the movie is so well executed that you can’t help but get drawn into it. You become aware of how cheap the movie is only fleetingly, and then get sucked back into the film right away.
This movie is really great; Zombie mayhem, some excellent actors portraying good characters, social allegory, suspense, and fun, unabashed violence. I wouldn’t recommend this to younger audiences; the imagery gets pretty intense. I cringed watching it and occasionally had to hide under my zombie-proof blanket. 28 Days Later was a fun zombie flick to watch and was highly satisfying. I’m looking for a copy on Blu-Ray for my shelf.

There are lots of types of zombies in movies and video games. What’s your favorite kind and where are they from? Comment below; let’s talk zombies!

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