Derek Winnert

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This article was written on 01 Aug 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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28 Days Later **** (2002, Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson) – Classic Movie Review 114

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This eerie and gripping Brit zombie chiller is stylishly and excitingly done by director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland, reuniting after The Beach (2000). This is Danny Boyle at his best.

Cillian Murphy stars as Jim, a young motorcycle courier, who awakes in a deserted hospital after a coma to find the city of London has been struck by a terrifying virus that’s turned almost all the population into zombie-like crazed killers. It seems that 28 days earlier, animal activists have invaded a lab to free chimps who are being experimented on with a virus.

The virus strikes and there are now just a handful of virus-free survivors in a doomed, deserted, destroyed London, desperately looking for other non-sick folk and even more desperately trying to evade the crazies. Jim is rescued in the nick of time from the clutches of The Infected by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley) and goes on to meet Frank (Brendan Gleeson). Can the survivors fight back and survive? Here’s a clue, there’s a sequel 28 Weeks Later, made in 2008.

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Replacing Ewan McGregor, Murphy is excellent in Boyle’s spine-tinglingly atmospheric horror movie, with a portrait of a deserted London that he has splendidly achieved. There’s a chilling and disturbing atmosphere that’s just right for the subject. The acting is strong and convincing throughout, Garland’s screenplay is an exercise in suspense and Boyle gives it some crucial style, putting a fresh, exciting coat of paint on the old zombie situations.

Garland makes reference to, and free use of, ideas from the old movies like The Day of the Triffids, George Romero’s Dead trilogy and The Omega Man. But, skilfully avoiding the danger of this seeming to be a bit deja-vu, puts new spins on the old situations so that something fresh and relevant comes out of it. For example, it’s greatly helped by changing brain-eating zombies into the much more relevant, and more modern idea of a viral apocalypse.

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Also, usefully, they’ve decided the virus doesn’t affect people physically so much as psychologically, so you don’t get your usual zombie. People affected are raging, as in road or plane rage, and the symptoms of Rage are like the real-life deadly Ebola virus. So The Rage works both a metaphor and a real fear in modern-day society.

Clever that, and satisfying. Then all Boyle had to do was make it look classy, which he does.

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The amazing-looking deserted London scenes were filmed on streets closed between 4am and 5am with the help of the police. They even got permission to film on the M1 motorway on a Sunday morning between 7am and 9am. Christopher Eccleston and the other actors playing soldiers took a three-day military course to add to the realism.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 114

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