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:: 28 Days Later

28 Days Later is the latest collaboration from British director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, and The Beach). This time bringing along writer, Alex Garland (The Beach) for the ride. 28 Days Later marks a return to the thriller/horror genre which has been only been briefly hinted at in the past few months with cinema releases. Shot on Digital Video with a low budget, this post apocalyptic world in 28 Days Later unrelentingly builds tension and horror for its audience without any means of letting go.

Set in present day London, a group of animal activists plan to liberate caged primates in a science lab. Upon arrival they discover one of the monkeys strapped down to a bench forced to watch the atrocities of humankind with pried open eyes. Just as they are about to release the science lab captors, a scientist walks in and warns the group not to open the caged animals as they have been infected with rage.

28 days later… a guy, Jim (Cillian Murphy), wakes up from a coma to a deserted hospital ward, but not just the hospital ward, an entire hospital. As he walks around he realises that it’s the whole block, and eventually he discovers that the whole of London is deserted. He enters a church to find bodies heaped on top of each other and a rabid priest who attempts to attack him but fails when a couple save him from his near death and take him away from the eyes of the remaining “infected.” Jim meets survivors Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley) who explain the severity of this plague that has swept through and infected millions of people with rage, a scientifically engineered infection. The rules of the game are that any contact with the blood or saliva of an infected, turns the person into a rage fuelled killing beast, void of any other human traits or characteristics other than extreme rage. They eventually die off from starvation as the infected lose the mental capacity to feed themselves. The only survival instinct they have is to kill.

After several attempts at escaping more infected, Mark is infected and Selena must do the inevitable. During this ordeal Jim returns to his family home to confirm the worst. With nothing left, Jim and Selena continue and meet survivors father and daughter, Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns), who have extraordinarily managed to survive despite the odds. The group decide to travel to Manchester where a recorded message filters through the radios airwaves alerting any survivors that the cure and salvation can be found there. After weighting out their very slim options, stay and die or leave and try, the group set of to Manchester. Doom and peril await them once Frank is accidentally infected and the remainder of the group are driven away to a covert military operation. It is at this point where things deteriorate rapidly for our survivors, for what initially seemed to be salvation is actually worse. Yes, they offer protection from the infected but at what cost?

Jim discovers that their attempt at salvation isn’t worth the price they must pay and stages a war, human against human, rather than human against the infected. Although much has been made of how this saga unfolds, and several alternate endings that have been tacked on even after its cinematic release, it is fair to say that it does waver towards the end, but ever so slightly. Given the right choice of ending (the original ‘bleaker’ ending sounds much better), it could’ve salvaged a really great horror film.

The scenes set in deserted post infection London are amazing to watch as Jim solemnly wanders the streets looking for some sign of life. The visual imagery of the bare stripped down London, Franks and Hannah’s apartment and Army base in Manchester highlight the emotional significance of our survivors whose necessities require the basics and essentials. Not too much exposition is necessary which keeps 28 Days Later moving along nicely and forever holding the audiences’ attention and intrigue right till the very end. 28 Days Later is a fascinating original script penned by Garland who seems to find the theme of outcast societies a worthy topic of note, just as he had explored through his novel The Beach. Credit must also be given to the great casting, especially with Cillian Murphy as Jim and Naomie Harris as Selina, a conscious decision by the director to cast talented lesser-known actors, possible after the debacle of DiCaprio and The Beach. All in all, less is definitely more in 28 Days