Title: 28 Days Later
Cillian Murphy as Jim
Naomie Harris as Selena
Brendan Gleeson as Frank
Christopher Eccleston as Major Henry West
Megan Burns as Hannah
Noah Huntley as Mark
Stuart McQuarrie as Sergeant Farrell
Ricci Harnett as Corporal Mitchell
Leo Bill as Private Jones
Luke Mably as Private Clifton
Junior Laniyan as Private Bell
Ray Panthaki as Private Bedford
Sanjay Rambaruth as Private Davis
Marvin Campbell as Private Mailer
David Schneider as Scientist
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Country: United Kingdom
Year of Release: 2002
Synopsis: The story opens up in a British research facility, where chimpanzees are being subjected to all sorts of weird and ghastly experiments. The animals are seen banging on their cages wildly and savagely. At the same time, animal rights activists break into the facility, and attempt to free the chimps from their cages. But in the midst of their actions, they are spotted by one of the scientists who works there. Terrified, the man desperately warns the activists that the chimps are infected with “rage”, a highly infectious virus that drives its hosts mad with bestial rage. However, they ignore his warning, and free one of the chimps, which immediately attacks and infects them. And then they move along to contaminate the rest of Great Britain. 28 days later, a man named Jim awakens in a hospital from a coma. Upon his awakening, he soon discovers that the hospital and the city of London is desolate and deserted. Jim travels from one part of the city to another, only to find no one there. But soon, he comes across a church, where he finds a bunch of bodies resting motionlessly in the main hall. His presence soon attracts the attention of the people infected with the virus, who attack on sight. Overwhelmed and frightened, Jim frantically races his way out of the church, and is chased through the streets. He is rescued by Selena and Mark, who throw Molotov cocktails at the "infected", resulting in the explosion of a petrol station. At their hideout in the London Underground, Selena and Mark explain to Jim that rage-inducing virus has gradually spread all over the country, resulting in a major catastrophe. They claim that plague has been reported to have spread in Paris and New York, indicating that the situation is worldwide. Together, they must try to survive the aftermath of the disaster caused by the plague. But this proves rather difficult, as there are hardly any survivors left besides them.
Personal Comments: I saw this movie for the first time when I was attending my first year in college. And I have to say this is one heck of a film. While it's not the most original horror film I've seen, it's still a classic. Originally released in the United Kingdom on November 1st, 2002, 28 Days Later is one of the films of the early 2000s that gained critical acclaim and high ratings. And not only that, but it was also given a US release on June 27th, 2003. And by then, I had just graduated from high-school. So anyway, let's talk about 28 Days Later. Well, this is one of the few British films I know of besides Dog Soldiers, which came out in 2002. But Dog Soldiers is not quite as well-known. Most likely due to the fact that it was only released as direct-to-video here in America, and didn't receive the same level of recognition as 28 Days Later. So anyway, 28 Days Later is your classical Night of the Living Dead inspired horror film, where a zombie plague contaminates the populace, resulting in a catastrophic age of chaos and horror. However, this film is quite unique in its own way. Not because it's a horror film, but because it's also a drama. But I'll get into details with that once I go over the premise and the similarities this movie shares with other series.
The concept of the rage virus was a well-thought out idea. While it's not your typical zombie virus, it's still downright terrifying in its own right. The people infected with the virus are simply referred to as “the infected”. They display some of the most notable signs; they have burning red eyes, foaming mouths, and blood dripping down from their noses, mouths, ears, and eyes. They also tend to vomit their own blood on occasion. But what separates 28 Days Later from other zombie films is that the infected are not undead zombies, but are living human beings that have been driven insane by a highly contagious disease. Now, even though the exact origins of the virus are never really explained in the actual film, we do actually learn more about its origins in the comics based on the franchise. And apparently, the rage virus didn't evolve by itself. But rather, it was created through a series of genetic experimentation. Like zombies, the infected have this unexplained ability to distinguish another infected from a normal human being, and they do not attack each other. They seek out only the people who are uncontaminated. However, since they are living human beings and not undead zombies, they are weak and vulnerable to physical harm. In other words, anything that can kill an ordinary human being can kill them as well. However, the infected also have certain advantages; because of an adrenaline rush, they have great strength and endurance. And even though they act mostly on instinct, they do have a certain measure of intelligence. For instance, in one of the chase scenes, they cease chasing after the survivors as they escape in their car, realizing that they're too slow to catch up. Because they are human beings, they can be killed very easily without much effort. But of course, one has to be careful when killing them, as they can easily pass the disease onto others.
The rage virus itself seems to have been inspired by a variety of other sources. Aside from the plague in the movies “Rabid” (1977) and “The Crazies” (both the 1973 and 2010 films), it is also possible that it might have been inspired by a similar rage virus from the original 80s Transformers cartoon. More specifically, the season 3 episode titled “Return of Optimus Prime”, which I went over in my review of the 1986 Transformers film. Referred to as the “hate plague”, the disease is basically the same as the rage virus from 28 Days Later in the sense that it drives its hosts mad with murderous rage. The virus is so contagious, that it can be transmitted easily just from a single touch. In other words, if someone infected with the virus touches you, you instantly become infected. When I made this connection, I was quite shocked at the similarities.
Back to my review on 28 Days Later. There are several ways to be infected; getting bitten or scratched by one of the infected, or if any of the blood, saliva or other bodily fluids gets in your ears, eyes, nose, and or mouth, you become one of them. And the scary thing about the rage virus is that it only takes a few seconds for it to become active. Which means if one of your friends or family gets infected, you only have a few seconds to kill them before the virus gets a hold of them and drives them mad. It's not like the zombie virus from Resident Evil in which it takes about half an hour or so for the virus to take affect. No, the rage virus acts within seconds upon infection. And for me, that's what made this movie downright terrifying. However, that's not all there was to it. 28 Days Later, though it is often regarded by audiences and critics alike as a horror movie, it is also a drama. As Jim is rescued by Mark and Selena, they let him in on the horrifying aftermath of the infection and the damage it has caused throughout Great Britain. At first, Jim finds this hard to believe. But as Mark receives a scratch on his arm from their second encounter with the infected, Selena is quick to act, and she kills Mark mercilessly and without hesitation. Now it's down to Selena and Jim, who are the only ones left in the group. As they journey throughout the desolate streets of London in search of food and shelter, Selena explains to Jim that the virus infects its hosts within seconds. Therefore, immediate action must be taken, or risk being killed or infected by your loved ones. After being chased by two of the infected while racing their way up a tall building, Jim and Selena meet Frank, and his daughter Hanna, who are also hiding from the infected. After Frank disposes of the rabid pursuers, they introduce themselves, and welcome Jim and Selena with open arms. The next day, they receive a distress call from what they assume is a group of British soldiers seeking refuge somewhere in Manchester. After a short-lived dispute on whether or not they should risk their lives going there to where the distress message was being broadcast from, the group ultimately decides to leave the desolate city of London, and journey their way to Manchester. But they must do whatever they can to avoid the jittery, bestial, savage, zombie like infected, who attack on sight. Eventually, they reach a station, which much to their dismay, is deserted. Frank gets infected when a drop of contaminated blood from a corpse falls into his eye. And as he starts to turn and become one of the infected, he is shot to death by the soldiers who gave out the distress signal.
With Jim, Selena, and Hanna taken in by what remains of the British military, Major Henry West shows them around the place, and introduced each and every one of the soldiers to the trio. He even reveals to Jim that he's been keeping an infected soldier named Mailer, whose chained up in the backyard like a dog. The reason why they've kept him alive, is to learn how long it takes for the infected to starve to death. Because it is also revealed that unless the infected feast on the flesh of their victims, they will die of starvation. The soldiers provide the refugees with food, shelter, and protection from the infected. However, all is not quite what it seems, when West reveals to Jim that that part of his plan was also lure female survivors into sexual slavery to rebuild the population with West's platoon. Jim attempts to escape with Selena and Hannah, but is captured by the soldiers, along with the dissenting Sergeant Farrell. During their imprisonment, Farrell theorizes to Jim that only Great Britain has been contaminated and has been quarantined while the rest of the world had survived; his theory is confirmed when Jim spots a NATO aircraft conducting aerial reconnaissance, revealing that the virus has only spread throughout the UK, and has not reached mainland Europe. As Jim and Farrell are sentenced to death, Farrell is killed, but Jim escapes his executioners. After luring West and Davis to the blockade, Jim bludgeons Davis in the head with a crowbar. Major West is left to deal with some of the infected, who he shoots dead with his automatic weapon. Meanwhile, Jim returns to the mansion, and frees the infected Mailer, who then runs rampant around the mansion in search for survivors. Mailer breaks his way into the mansion, and infects Clifton by vomiting blood into his face. The two infected soldiers then run amok, killing the other soldiers who they find in the mansion. Jim rescues Selena and Hanna. But as they make their way to the car, they spot Major West, who shoots Jim in the gut with his gun, followed by Mailer punching through the window to the car, grabbing West, and killing him off screen as the trio escape the mansion. It is assumed that Mailer might have eventually starved to death. But Although Clifton was not seen with Mailer in that scene, the DVD extras show that Clifton was shot dead by Major West before the scene where the trio escapes the mansion.
Another 28 days had past, around 61 days after the infection initially started spreading, Jim is shown to be recovering at a remote cottage. Downstairs, he finds Selena sewing large swaths of fabric when Hannah appears. The three rush outside and unfurl a huge cloth banner, adding the final letter to the word "HELLO" laid out on the meadow. A lone Hawker Hunter T7 fighter jet flies over the landscape. The infected are shown lying on roads dying of starvation. The jet flies over the three waving survivors and their distress sign while the pilot, speaking in Finnish, calls in a rescue helicopter. Bieng the only ones left, Jim, Selena, and Hanna pretty much survive the events of the film.
However, the DVD extras include three alternative endings, all of which conclude with Jim dying except for the radical ending. Two were filmed, while the third, a more radical departure, was presented only in storyboards. On 25 July 2003, cinemas started showing the alternative ending after the film's credits. Perhaps the most well-known alternate ending this film has is the one where Jim is brought to the London hospital, where Selena and Hanna attempt to revive him, but are ultimately unsuccessful, and Jim dies. Devastated over the loss of their friend, Selena and Hanna leave Jim's lifeless body in the hospital, and move on. The "Hospital Dream" ending is an extended version of the theatrical alternative ending where Jim dies at the hospital. It is revealed by the director during the optional commentary that this was the full version of the original ending. Jim dreams while unconscious and remembers the final moments on his bicycle before the crash. The footage cuts back and forth between the scene with Selena and Hannah trying to save his life and the dream sequence. As he gets hit by a car in his flashback, he simultaneously dies on the operating table. And in one of the storyboards featured in the DVD special features, we get an alternate event that was ultimately scrapped from the final version of the film which involves the scene where Frank gets infected. In this storyboard, the soldiers are not involved. Instead, Jim manages to knock Frank out cold with a baseball bat, and they restrain him. Hoping to find a cure for the virus, Jim, Hanna, and Selena make their way into a deserted research facility where they come across a stubborn and selfish scientist who has barricaded himself inside the laboratory. He refuses to come out or to let the trio in as they are complete strangers to him. Eventually, after long hours of failed attempts to get the man to come out his comfort zone, the scientist reluctantly tells them that Frank can only be cured with a complete blood transfusion, and supplies them with the necessary equipment. After learning that he is the only match with Frank's blood type, Jim sacrifices himself so that Frank can be restored to a normal and healthy man, and survive with his daughter and the others. Just as his journey began, Jim is left alone in the abandoned medical facility, and Selena, Hannah and Frank move into the room with the scientist as a horde of the infected breach the complex. The computer monitors show death and destruction come to life. The last thing that is seen is an infected Jim, who is strapped to the same table as the chimp had been in the opening scene.
28 Days Later has proven to be quite a success in both the UK and in North America. The film is credited for re-popularizing the zombie genre of horror fiction. And today, it has become a classic. In 2007, a sequel to this movie was made titled “28 Weeks Later”. However, the original cast of actors did not return for the sequel. Instead, they were all replaced with a brand new cast of actors and characters, as the sequel was an entirely different story that took place after the first one. Interestingly enough, the movie makes use of the same soundtrack that the first film had, and it even includes the theme song “In the House in a Heartbeat”. 28 Weeks Later was directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Rumors have been going on that a third film titled “28 Months Later” was in production. But so far, there has been no announcement on whether or not this film is really being made, or if it will ever see the light of day. For all we know, it may never happen. It's been a few years now since the release of the second film. But who knows? Your guess is as good as mine in this case. And that's not all, in the DVD extras of 28 Weeks Later, there are short animated comics, where we learn that the rage virus was created by scientists in an attempt to create a formula that neutralizes feelings of excessive anger and aggression in humans. But due to its disastrous results when tested on chimps, it was ultimately dubbed as the rage virus. And soon after wards, chaos and disaster strikes when the infected monkeys run loose, and the plague spreads throughout London. There was also a graphic novel titled “28 Days Later: The Aftermath”, which expands the time line of the outbreak. And there was also a series of comic books simply titled 28 Days Later. The comics were written by Michael Alan Nelson, illustrated by Declan Shalvey, and published by Boom Studios. The series follows the events of the film that it's based on, initially taking place in the gap between it and the sequel. Much like the graphic novel “The Aftermath”. Some of the comics feature Selena as a returning character. But for some odd reason, Jim and Hanna are absent from the comics.
Overall: Even though this film is only a few years old, I have to say that 28 Days Later has withstood the test of time. It's not exactly one of my favorite films of all time, but I commend it for its success, and for the fact that it reintroduced the zombie genre in horror fiction. And while it does have some problems and inconsistencies, they don't really affect this film in the long run. And for the most part, this film and its sequel are actually quite enjoyable overall. Though it's uncertain if the rumored third film is in production. But nevertheless, 28 Days Later is now a classic. And it definitely has shown the scary side of humanity. Not just because of the rage virus, but also because it reveals to the audience that man's worst enemy is himself. And I believe that it deserves the praise and the recognition its gotten in the last few years since its release in theaters in both its native country and in North America. So I'll gladly give this film 5 stars.