28 Days Later

28 Days Later

***

Reviewed by: David Stanners

Ever dreamed that one day you'd wake up, or come home, to find an empty house, or no house at all? Take that a dozen steps further and suspend your disbelief beyond all reasonable proportion. By now you may just be on the outer fringes of 28 Days Later territory.

A young man (Cillian Murphy) wakes up naked in a London hospital to find himself amidst some sort of post apocalyptic dystopia. Westminster is deserted; London Bridge is desolate; rubbish everywhere, but no sign of life. Have the city's residents thought, "Bugger it, we've had enough of this rat race, let's take a long lie?" Probably more likely than the ensuing story.

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As he wanders groggily around London - understandable, after 28 days' kip - he comes across a lunatic priest with more than a hangover. After being chased half way across the city, he runs into somebody sane. In normal circumstances this is quite an achievement in London. It's an even greater one when the city has been zombified by a lethal virus. He learns from his tough new female acquaintance (Naomie Harris) that everyone has been wiped out - with a handful of exceptions - as a result of animal activists releasing infected apes.

"It's all about survival now," she says. Together they flee to a high-rise tower block and team up with a non-zombie taxi driver (Brendan Gleeson) and his young daughter (Megan Burns) to discuss their next move. They happen to overhear an army broadcast telling them to get to Manchester, where they will be protected. After driving the taxi up the M1, it turns out Manchester is a bit of a disappointment on the protection front. And a few unwanted stones are unturned.

Written by Alex Garland, the idea is good, but the script poor. Director Danny Boyle has done as much as he could under the circumstances. Garland needs to get back to the drawing board and look up the term "character development" in his notes.

Post-apocalyptic scenarios can be fascinating and there was enormous scope for an innovative piece of horror entertainment here. The use of digital video is fantastic. It's hard to decide whether it creates, or reflects, the mayhem of bloodthirsty zombies, but whatever, it's highly effective - frightening, too.

What starts out with tremendous potential comes a bit of a cropper. When they arrive at the barracks in Manchester, the whole thing stumbles. Instead of building up to a dramatic crescendo, the film takes a dip. Had Garland awarded his characters more substance than the zombies, we might have had a cracker.

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2002
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28 Days Later packshot
Survivors run from infected killers after apocalyptic rage virus devastates Britain.
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Read more 28 Days Later reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***
Angus Wolfe Murray *

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Alex Garland

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Noah Huntley

Year: 2002

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

EIFF 2011

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