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28 Days Later (2003)
 
 
 Directed by: Danny Boyle
 Starring: Cillian Murphy/Jim
Naomie Harris/Selena
Brendan Gleeson/Frank
Megan Burns/Hannah
 
RATING

PLOT-CRUNCH:


After a “rage” virus wipes out most of earth’s population, a small group of survivors band together to bypass the rage “filled” crazies who want them for breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack and to travel the dead earth in search of personal and global salvation. And how was your day?
  

THE LOWDOWN:


After the box-office failures of two of his big Hollywood features, "Life Less Than Ordinary" (dug it) and "The Beach" (loved it), genius Danny Boyle goes back to the nitty gritty school of filmmaking in this shot-on-digital end of the world/zombie-like rabid loons on the loose opus. Written by author and screenwriter Alex Garland (who also wrote "The Beach"), "28 Days Later" might let down the crowds expecting a straight forward/fast-paced zombie party, but should please the more open-minded, substance-craving and patient genre fiends.

But don't get me wrong, there is some horror in this zoo...with the rage-filled mongrels plaguing the world not messing around when it comes to human hunting and providing me with a couple of well delivered armrest clenching suspenseful scenes in the process. You see, unlike the lumbering zombies of say, Romero’s films, the threats on two legs here actually run after you with everything they freaking got, wanting to chew flesh as much as I need Burger King after a drunken night of debauchery. Their speedy disposition was a refreshing approach in this now familiar sub-genre and it whooped my ass a few times in the tension factor (tunnel scene…nice!). Having said that, at its core, "28 Days Later" is more interested in drama than it is in pure horror which basically acts as background material with the baddies being abandoned for large blocks of time to make way for character exploration and social commentaries. Nothing wrong with that!

The flick started putting out its message-heavy “raison d’etre” early on with TV news footage of man’s inhumanity to man and went on to take that theme further via its last block ("Day of the Dead" came to mind there). Some might argue that the supporting characters who contributed to the aforementioned subtext were fairly one-dimensional, but sometimes you have to go “black and white” to make a point and for me...it worked. The message hit hard and I “capiched” loud and clear. Although I grooved on the “universal” themes, the deepest hook to this flick for me was on a more intimate human level. I quickly grew mucho fond of the key players, their relationships and what they brought to the emotional table. The excellent actors really made it happen with the interaction being touching and the tackling of the importance of “love” and “family” making my heart and noggin work overtime. My character arc highlight was Jim’s eventual transition to full on “manhood”. You don’t mess with Jim’s women, that’s for sure and head bashing does wonders to one’s evolution it seems (a man’s gotta relax). I respect that!  

On the downside, most of the conventions here were reminiscent of other films, but I was able to let that got to some degree due to the strong execution. I did find that the film missed out on what could have been some truly engaging fear scenarios though by communicating them in overly shaky cam fashion or by not taking them far enough. The movie’s low budget and the format on which it was shot also diminished some of the intended impact. I can just imagine how much more striking this baby would’ve been if shot on 35mm with coin to spare. Lastly, one subplot that fascinated me, which was Jim’s transition from nice guy to shirtless badass ("The Beach" came to mind here), wasn’t handled in-depth enough. A bit more time spent on Jim’s "growth" would’ve made the deliciously violent outcome even more powerful.

Overall, I was well treated by the stylish and somewhat artsy "28 Days Later" and the eerie opening scenes of one man left on earth, walking the deserted streets of London really stayed with me and was worth the price of admission alone. Echoing Romero’s "The Crazies", "Dawn of the Dead", "Day of the Dead", the other Boyle/Garland team up "The Beach" and that trashy little ditty “Night of the Comet” (hey, I was an 80’s kid...sue me) this movie hit the damn spot on many levels. [Arrow sings} “It’s the end of the world as we know it; and I feel fine!
    

ACTING:


Cillian Murphy (Jim) had a wooing stillness about him and a sympathetic, photogenic nature that made his role one worth investing in. Naomie Harris (Selena) gave a gripping show and I relished witnessing her character’s evolution from heartless badass to emotional chickadee. Brendan Gleeson (Frank) was mucho endearing as the “father figure” of the group. Megan Burns (Hannah) underplayed it and came through as the precocious daughter. Christopher Eccleston (Major West) gave a focused show (like always) and I had trouble figuring out his character...which made him that much more fascinating.
 

GORE:


It’s Happy Hour at the blood bar with violent machete fun, blood puking, disgusting infected humans and corpses, a brutal head bashing and the grand finale being thumbs in the eye socket fun. A cup of blood for all my friends!
   

T & A:


Naomie Harris (Selena) gave us some undergarment shots while the ladies got the full platter with Cillian Murphy (Jim) revealing his noodle and his ham slices.
   

DIRECTING:


Danny Boyle is my kind of director: one who likes to emphasize the audio/visual qualities in his films. This flick is stylishly directed, with creative angles, camera moves, quick cuts and slick editing filling the screen with a great use of silence or/and music backing the images up perfectly to boot. Apart from a couple of “too blurry” scenes and the digital format sometimes lessening the power of some shots...I had a blast here.
   

SOUNDTRACK:


John Murphy’s poignant score and the kicking tunes from the likes of Perry Alleyne, Brina Eno, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Grandaddy contributed majorly to the film’s bleak atmosphere. I gotta get this soundtrack!
   

DVD FEATURES:


Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox

IMAGE: Taking into account that the flick was shot on HD (High Definition Digital Video), then blown up to 35MM, to then be transferred to disc, the 1.85:1 anamorphic image on the DVD was adequate. 

SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound for the film was uneven where the dialogue would be very low and the score really loud, expect lots of remote control toying. French and Spanish dub tracks are available in Dolby 2.0 Surround

EXTRAS:

Audio Commentary (feature length): Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland come in to provide a decent commentary with very little dead time. They relayed a lot of info about the hard shoot and the intentions behind the film. Solid.

Deleted Scenes (~ 13 minutes): Here we get 7 deleted scenes with optional writer and director commentary. The scenes themselves went from being pretty money (the stair case scene), to trivial to variations on scenes already in the film. The commentary by director Boyle and writer Alex Garland was informative in regards to why they left these scenes out of the finished print.

Alternate Ending (~ 3 minutes): We get 3 alternate endings, The Theatrical Alternate Ending (bleak and my fav), Alternate Ending (similar to the theatrical ending, but without Jim) and Radical and Alternative Ending which is communicated via storyboards with Alex Garland and Danny Boyle reading the directions and the dialogue. This radical ending really takes the movie in a different direction than what it turned out be. To give you an idea, the soldiers are not involved in that ending. Slick stuff!

Pure Rage-The Making of 28 Days Later (~ 24 mins): This feature was misleading. It wasn't really a "making of", but more of a look at the real life "virus infection" threat in the world with random clips from the film and cast/crew comments slipped in. Disappointing because I didn't get what I wanted, but interesting nonetheless.

Galleries (~ 18 minutes): We get two galleries. Production Galleries (on-set stills, location stills) and Polaroid Galleries (costume and makeup). Both have Danny Boyle commentary to them explaining the purpose or nature of the pictures.

Marketing: Here we get Trailers, storyboards and a music video by Jacknife Lee.

On the whole, if you loved the film, you'll appreciate this DVD. Sure, it's too bad that the audio quality of the disc wasn't top notch, but it came through visually and had enough extras to quench one's thirst.
   

BOTTOM LINE:


Witnessing a genre film that had something to say beyond rappers, tight tops, cell phones and bon-bon music left me a happy and fulfilled horror fanboy. "28 Days Later" titillated my taste buds as a powerful audio/visual experience, a layered character study, an in-depth social commentary and a horror/action piñata of shocks and red messes. I came out of the theatre, enjoying the rain and the wind on my face and feeling that with love and family in tow, life is worth living. Yes, I got that out of a pseudo-zombie movie. Who knew? Hopefully you’ll get as much out of it as I did. I’ll end with some friendly advice; if the end of the world is ever upon you, stock up on lots of Pepsi...it’s the number one “surviving kit” item according to this flick. Just sharing the wisdom: "The joy of Pepsi”!
 

BULL'S EYE:


The deserted London streets exteriors were shot on early weekday mornings. The crew only had a couple of minutes a day to get their coverage and had to ask groggy night clubbers not to walk into the street shots.

The flick was shot for US$15,000,000.

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The Way The Arrow Points...

   
 I’d BUTCHER my family to see this again
 HANG me but I dug it a lot
 An ok way to KILL two hours
 Just sling an ARROW in my head and let me die in peace

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