This review contains major spoilers.
Everyone loves a good zombie flick. Unless you don’t. And if you don’t, 28 Days Later is one of the ones which makes this a sad state of affairs. Also, this isn’t really a zombie flick – but I’m leaving it within the parameters of one.
Okay. Like with most zombie-style flicks, the introductory plot is pretty basic and to-the-point. Thankfully, though, 28 Days Later has so much more to offer than the average post-apocalyptic picture-show. So, in a nutshell: Animal activists break into a laboratory in order to free some chimpanzees held in captivity. Ignoring the pleas of a present scientist who strongly advises against the idea due to said chimpanzees being infected with a super-contagious Rage Virus, one of the activists lets a chimp free. Said chimp, clearly in an abnormal state, mindlessly attacks one of the activists and infects them with the rage virus, spreading to and initiating a reaction in the activist almost instantly. And from here, things just go from bad to worse – but I guess that’s what you get for monkeying around (and before anyone says it: yes, I know there are significant distinctions between chimps and monkeys. Let me pun in peace.)
Long story short, Jim – played by the one and only dreamy-eyed Cillian Murphy – wakes up after having been a coma for a while. He doesn’t just wake up to an abandoned hospital, however – the entirety of London central is deserted, remnants of litter and lootings being the only thing standing out amongst the memorable landscapes. The cinematography is one aspect which makes this such a memorable and visually-pleasing experience; director, Danny Boyle, sets the scene by taking one of the most famous landmarks – Big Ben – along with one of the busiest and most prominent places – London centre – and not only empties them of their population, but turns them upside down – and this twist on such a familiar location provides for an eerily real feel for the film we’re already so invested in, only 10 minutes in.
The film progresses with Jim happening upon a group of other survivors after having had a scary encounter in a church with a “Father”. Selina (Naomie Harris) – another survivor –brings Jim up to speed with an explanation: that a virus has rapidly and relentlessly spread across the population of England, turning them into mindless rage monsters and that, worse, it could have spread to the rest of the world.
Events unfold, with Jim, Selina, Professor Mad-Eye Moody, and his daughter – who, might I add, provides some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen and momentarily ruins almost every scene she is in, so much so that I’m not even going to bother looking up the actress’ name – with the group winding up at a military camp with a bunch of masculine men who are actually rapists, and, naturally, everything essentially goes even more to s**t; but the journey and the build-up along the way provides for an explosive and thoroughly enjoyable final act to the film.
Leaving the viewers desperate and in the throes of the final minutes of the film, we’re left to see whether the characters survive the tirade of events they’ve been thrown into. Thankfully, they do – and if you’re a fan of IMDb’ing trivia right after watching most films, you’ll see that the remaining trio head in the direction of – yep, you guessed it – my hometown of Huddersfield. Because there’s nothing quite like heading to West Yorkshire to drown one’s sorrows with the three utmost essential Ps in life: pint, pie and mushy peas.
Working with a fairly small budget for a film, 28 Days Later had a lot to achieve – and it delivered. Perhaps my most consistently favourite aspect throughout the film is the gracefully beautiful yet adrenaline-boosting original soundtrack provided by John Murphy. I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack – and boy, would I suck on this soundtrack all day long. With some guest inclusions from the likes of Brian Eno and Grandaddy, the soundtrack proves to be a key aspect in the formation and maintenance of this film’s atmosphere, containing everything existing within this world majestically both at the highest and lowest of emotions as well as everything in between – be it a sense of unrelenting desolation, a moment of pure happiness in the worst of times, and even a sense of triumphant finality in a bleak and uncertain existence.
From start-to-finish, 28 Days Later invites the audience into another reality, in a world we’re familiar with in the most unfamiliar of ways: with raw emotion, suspense, tension, action, comedy and an Irish charm only Cillian can so wonderfully provide, this film encompasses an entire existence sewn together by a wonderfully accommodating soundtrack, as well as Boyle’s generally fine directing finesse. Also, there’s an alternative ending you can have a watch of once you’re done, which is always a nice way to end a plot with many possibilities – so check it out.
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