28 Days Later (Netherlands/UK/USA; 112 min.)


directed by: Danny Boyle
starring: Alex Palmer; Bindu De Stoppani; Jukka Hiltunen; Cillian Murphy
28 Days Later
 
Laura says: "Director Danny Boyle (TRAINSPOTTING) makes great use of the digital video format (with Dogme favorite, Director of Photography Anthony Dod Mantle (THE CELEBRATION) for his post-apocalyptic/undead 'zombie'/survival tale. 28 DAYS LATER is short on real scares, but it is a solid genre offering with some eerie moments.

"Although we know from the opening sequence that a 'Rage' virus has become uncontained, we piece together what has happened in the ensuing four weeks along with Jim. He encounters vandalized vending machines and greedily gulps an unopened Pepsi. A kiosk is papered over with pleas for info on missing persons (which instantly conjures up 9/11, although this scene was shot months earlier). An abandoned newspaper's headline screams 'EVACUATION!'. Yelling 'Hello!' over and over (a signature word for the film), Jim is met with silence in one of the world's largest cities. Until, that is, he discovers a cache of stacked corpses in a church and a priest, infected, rushes towards him with blood red eyes. Running from the priest and other 'infecteds' roused by the commotion, Jim is covered by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), two survivors using homemade flamethrowers who guide him to a barricaded convenience store.

"Although Mark tells Jim a horrific tale of losing his family, Jim is given evidence of Selena's emotional closedown when she takes action 'in a heartbeat' after Mark is infected. Selena and Jim find a father, Frank (Brendon Gleesan, GANGS OF NEW YORK), and his daughter, Hannah (Megan Burns, LIAM), holed up in a high rise apartment. Frank's found a shortwave signal from an army unit in Manchester offering a solution to the virus, so the foursome set off in Frank's cab. Only three of them will make their destination and they may not be the lucky ones.

"28 DAYS LATER is more a psychological survivor thriller akin to the Cold War tales of battles over bomb shelters than it is a monster flick, although its grainy, retro look links it with such genre standards as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Except for the modern idea of rage itself being a virus, 28 DAYS LATER is an amalgamation of plots and images we've seen before (most recently, REIGN OF FIRE featured a Britain where survivors lived underground and moved surreptitiously). Unfortunately, the filmmakers don't give enough weight to their rage concept and it quickly falls to the wayside, with its 'infecteds' acting more like single-minded marauders than rage-induced monsters. Screenwriter Alex Garland (THE BEACH) also stumbles over a couple of key plot points. In a minor one, Jim and Selena find Frank and Hannah due to a string of blinking Christmas lights strung over their balcony in a city with no electricity (the filmmakers had to film day for night because it was too difficult to eradicate the glow of street lamps, yet let this one get by?). A more significant problem arises from an early statement that rumor has it that the virus had spread to Paris and New York. The second act pretty much hinges on the truth or fallacy of this statement, but common sense would immediately challenge it.

"The ensemble is nicely cast with Murphy and Harris creating a credible emotional bond from their opposing initial perspectives. Most poignant is Gleesan, who cloaks his character in boisterous bravado to protect his daughter from the terror they all feel. Eccleston is slightly imperious officiousness, and, too their credit, West's soldiers are distinguishable, with Stuart McQuarrie and Luke Mably particularly notable.

"It is Dod Mantle's visuals and Boyle's direction that are28 DAYS LATER'S greatest asset. After a kinetic opening, Dod Mantle's camera rests on a beautiful closeup of Jim's eye, all feathery lashes and facial peach fuzz, a richly textural shot. After the odd realization that hordes of rats are running from humans, we see their approaching shadows on the wall of an underground tunnel. Twice Boyle and Dod Mantle stun with overhead shots. In a city without water, we're shown the vast panorama of an apartment building's rooftop covered in every type of container imaginable left to capture non- existent raindrops. The second is a heart stopper, when a crow shown from below is revealed to be far more than an annoyance when the camera hovers over it." 3 1/2 cats

 
Michael says: "Better late than never, I finally caught Danny Boyle's chilling apocalyptic "zombie" film last week at the Brattle's recent raves. (It's due out on DVD next week.) As suspected from the reviews of others, 28 DAYS LATER was quite the thrill ride, keeping me on the edge of my seat (or sinking as low in my seat as I could) while not going so far as I couldn't enjoy myself.

"You all know the plot, of a virus let loose in London, transmitted by blood, that in a mere 20 seconds, transforms people (and some animals) into incoherent, raging lunatics hell-bent on attacking anyone they see. Jim wakes up from an operation in an abandoned hospital. In fact, he wakes up to a pretty-much abandoned London. After being attacked by a trio of "the infected" in a church, then saved by a couple of uninfected, he quickly learns that London has been reduced to a tiny handful of people struggling just to stay alive, and uninfected.

"The first half of the film is effectively nightmarish, as Jim is forced to come to terms with the hell he has awoken into. Boyle, filming on digital video, creates a supremely visual film, charged with tension and electricity. The "infected" while drawing on parallels to the zombies in the classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, are not the slow, shuffling wave of that film, but are pumped with adrenaline, moving with sudden bursts of speed. Boyle films the "infected" in a jerky, digitized fashion that is spine-tingling. He also employs an impressivly simple, yet effective technique of shooting a scene in longshot, then having a figure (or figures) race between the camera and the people in the scene in a blur. So the viewer is braced, knowing something is about to occur, but startled by its suddenness.

"The monster in this horror film keeps changing. From nameless horrors in the street, to friends and family newly infected, to a surprising (well... not really) ally. When the film morphs from an apocalyptic horror film to a 'military-gone-bad' film, it loses a little of its chill, but picks up other interesting facets. Jim's transformation from overwhelmed victim, to something heroic, yet monstrous at the same time is very well done. Brendan Gleeson (GANGS OF NEW YORK, A.I.) is superb as a man who has survived infection with his teenaged daughter. And relative newcomer Naomie Harris brings depth and power to what could have been a stock character." 4 cats
 
Nathaniel T. says: "The first twenty minutes of this film (I could take or leave the lab scenes, though) may constitute the best sequence of the year. The deserted streets,
the ghost-town London, all of it was so beautiful. I honestly believed that I was watching a masterpiece. HOWEVER, I think that the film loses its way about half way through, and ends up in a place that does not suit the film at all. The impact of the first past is not lessened, but I wish that they had gone with the radical alternative ending that they outline on the DVD extras." 2 cats
 

Peg says: "This is THE film to see now and my newest favorite. It got raves when it was released in the UK last year. It is Danny Boyle's (TRAINSPOTTING) latest, with script by Alex Garland (THE BEACH).

"Premise: The film opens with some animal rights activists raiding a lab in London where chimpanzees are being used for experiments involving finding a cure for violent behavior. They've been infected with a virus which keeps them in a permanent psychotic state. Despite pleas from a lab technician that they
are highly contagious, the activists release them. Mayhem ensues: when one is infected with the virus, within 10-20 seconds they become raging murderous zombies. If the newly-infected are not killed immediately, they infect whoever is nearby. Within 28 days the whole of London is wiped out. A few survivors regroup and try to carry on. But interestingly enough, infection is not the worst danger they face in this post-apocalyptic world.

"I found this film absolutely mesmerizing. With superb digital video photography by Anthony Dod Mantle (JULIEN DONKEY-BOY), and compelling performances from all involved, including Naomie Harris (PBS' White Teeth), Brendan Gleeson (BRAVEHEART, THE GENERAL), and Christopher Eccleston (SHALLOW GRAVE).

"The story is rich in subtext, as any post-apocalyptic plague film would be, particularly for Great Britain, which has experienced the fear, isolation and ostracization of mad cow disease and hoof and mouth disease in recent years...but the most fascinating aspect is the film's unrelenting take on human nature
and the way that societal structures like martial law allow for the very worst in human behavior...and the notion that humans are more than capable of destroying themselves and the planet given the right circumstances.

"see it, see it, see it....

"I also love the promo slogan: 'The End is extremely fucking nigh...'"