28 Days Later review

:. Director: Danny Boyle
:. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris
:. Running Time: 1:52
:. Year: 2003
:. Country: UK


In 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle pays homage to genre films, bringing us to a world devastated by a virus that has transformed humans in flesh-eating zombies. Major cities like London have become a no man's land; we follow a group of survivors in their odyssey, searching for the last stronghold of civilization.

Shot in DV, 28 Days Later is based on an Alex Garland novel and openly quotes major fares of the genre, from George Romero's films to Escape from New York. Garland has injected the basic narrative with metaphors, the virus is compared through different scenes—particularly the opening scene with Benetton ads and the grocery store sequence—to consumerism, which for the writer, has the same frenetic, propagation and zombifying effects on people. In a Rambo-style climax, he also shows that rage and violence are not the result of contamination but inherent to the nature of a human being.

28 Days Later can unexpectedly be echoed in real-life with the current SARS syndrome, which is even more pathetic for human beings: in the picture, the virus originates from monkeys biting people, in the real world, it's humans eating dogs who are the source of the breakout...

While Digital Video brings some sense of urgency to the movie, fairly effective in a couple of zombie attacks, the film never manages to build the pressure and convey the loneliness of that deserted world. The soundtrack, usually so important in Boyle's films, is misused here, often building tension for scenes that end up falling flat.

While 28 Days Later is certainly fun and doesn't take itself seriously, this is an underachievement for Boyle, whose work was so promising after the release of Trainspotting. Trying to get back to his indie European roots after two Hollywood pictures (The Beach, A Life Less Ordinary), Boyle plays it safe and avoids building on the premise of Trainspotting.

Last year's main British entry in genre cinema, Dog Soldiers, was undoubtedly a better achievement than 28 Days Later, simply because we were not expecting anything else from a lesser known filmmaker, other than spending some quality time with toothy werewolves. But Boyle never dares to go beyond the routine of the sub-genre which he properly obeys, unlike a filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino who bends the rules and reinvents sub-genres by updating them with today's pop culture, social themes and cinema tends. There is low risk of severe contamination here.

  Fred Thom

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