|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
latest, 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.
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.