28 Days Later... (2002)
Ebert: Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:1/2
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
28 Days Later is a good old fashioned zombie movie. As opposed to an effects heavy undead action film like Resident Evil, this film builds suspense slowly and allows you to develop an actual affinity for the characters before they die. It also takes us on a tour of a deserted virus infected post-apocalyptic London that brings to mind SARS, AIDS, Small Pox, Monkey Pox, and all the assorted weapons grade military and terrorist viruses that have been in the news as of late.
The film begins with animal rights activists (presumably our pals at the militant Animal Liberation Front who Holly and Alan indirectly finance by supporting People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) breaking into a government research lab that is testing some sort of rage virus on primates. Ignoring the warnings from the researcher that the virus is virulent, deadly and highly communicable one of the activists releases one of the animals. The monkey promptly attacks her, the virus is passed and she goes berserk and attacks her comrades as well as the researcher. 28 days later a guy named Jim wakes up in a downtown London hospital from a coma. The hospital is deserted. He soon learns that most of the city is deserted as well except for decomposing bodies and the occasional rage filled crazed zombie. For the rest of the film, survivors seek each other out and and attempt to defend themselves against the zombies.
I love zombie movies. An inordinate number of my DVD's are zombie and/or zombie related films. I'm not sure why I like them so much. I just do.
This movie was made by Danny Boyle who made Trainspotting and was shot entirely on digital video which creates a cool grainy real life look. It's kind of like watching news footage. The zombies are pretty typical in their blood thirsty jerky movements but they are fast as opposed to lurching and seem to want to spread the virus more than eat or destroy the uninfected. The third act of the film takes a unique twist and was a really fun new idea for the genre.
The special effects are minimal as I said before. The zombie make up is scary and looks good on the grainy video. The scenes of the deserted cities, shot mostly in the early morning to create the empty stillness effect are eerie and creepy. They reminded me of the Times Square shot in Vanilla Sky and the surface shots in 12 Monkeys. Plus the whole animal rights activists releasing a virus angle was also present in 12 Monkeys.
The actors, all relatively unknown in the U.S. do a great job with their roles. Each is fully developed as a character so as to make all the more devastating their untimely and often horrific unexpected demise.
28 Days After is a fun new zombie movie. If you don't catch it at the theatre it's worth a Friday night rental when it comes out on DVD. I will definitely add it to my list of favorite zombie flicks.
Note: One memorable image from this film shows Jim wandering the deserted downtown London after the infection has wiped everyone out. I actually stood on this same spot years ago when I was visiting there. Prior to the zombification of the populace of course!