28 days later ...

                    The initial collaboration between director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland (by way
             of John Hodge's screenplay adaptation) was
The Beach, a middling adaptation of Garland's
             novel about a utopian paradise. That film suffered quite a bit due to the casting of Leonardo
             DiCaprio in the leading role. Not that DiCaprio didn't offer a terrific performance, it was just
             his first film after the monumental success of
Titanic and expectations ran high.

                     Boyle, who made a breakthrough with the smashing noirish thriller
Shallow Grave,
             has made a habit of casting lesser known actors in his films. Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle,
             Christopher Eccleston, and Kelly Macdonald are but a few of the performers who earned acclaim
             under his direction. So it comes as perhaps no surprise that there are no household names in his
28 days later..., which if it were pitched to a Hollywood studio would be described as a
             cross between
Outbreak and The Night of the Living Dead.

                    Written by Garland and stylishly helmed by Boyle, the movie is a post-apocalyptic survival
             drama. Opening with a prologue in which a group of animal rights activists attack a laboratory, set
             free chimpanzees forced to watch violent images, and unwittingly unleash a virus of "rage" that quickly
             is passed from animal to human. The catastrophic results of the highly contagious virus threaten

                     Following this disturbing opening, Boyle and Garland have fashioned an even more upsetting
             tableaux: bike messenger Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma in a deserted London hospital.
             Like a newborn, he is naked and must find his way through the empty corridors. Leaving the building,
             Jim discovers the streets devoid of people. It's a genuinely eerie series of images as he traverses
             through Picadilly Circus and across Westminster Bridge searching for any signs of life. He soon
             comes upon a church filled with bodies and an infected priest who attacks him. Along the way,
             Jim hooks up with the feisty Selena (Naomie Harris) and her companion Mark (Noah Huntley),
             who provide the necessary exposition (the virus has spread to Europe and America and once
             someone is infected, you have 20 seconds in which to kill them before they kill you.) It's not long
             before that 20-second deadline is invoked when Mark is exposed to the virus.

                     Once Selena and Jim are on their own, she takes charge and keeps them alive. Eventually,
             the pair hook up with Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his teenage daughter Hannah (Megan Burns)
             and the foursome set off in Frank's cab to travel to Manchester where an army unit appears
             to be broadcasting. There's a memorable scene in which the taxi breaks down as a hoard of
             zombie-like creatures approach. By the time they reach Manchester, things take another turn.
             Like many genre pictures (and
28 days later... sits squarely in the sci-fi/horror category), the
             movie bogs down in the last act. It's as if having set up this creepy atmosphere, the filmmakers ran        
             out of ideas. Christopher Eccleston (who first worked with Boyle on
Shallow Grave) appears as
             an oddball army officer with a hidden agenda.

28 days later... was shot on digital video by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and
             the faded colors add an otherworldly quality to the movie. Boyle handles the suspense well, even
             in the last act where the story veers wildly off course. I waited to see the film a bit and was treated
             to the alternate ending that was included on the DVD release in Great Britain. The original ending
             is more hopeful, while the alternate one is darker. There's even a third ending that was not shot,
             although the British DVD includes storyboards and Boyle's commentary; whether that one
             will appear in the American release remains to be seen.

Rating:                      B
MPAA Rating:         R for strong violence and gore, language and nudity
Running time:          108 mins.

                                                             Viewed at the Clearview Chelsea
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.