28 Days Later


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

28 Days Later
"Character development has been dumped with the last remnants of logic."

The end of the world is expensive. Scenes of a 1000 extras going up in flames, as cities crumble, would make Pearl Harbor look like an Hawaiian holiday. Post-apocalyptic afterwreck, on the other hand, has a neat nothingness to it. Silence doesn't cost anything.

Alex Garland wrote The Beach. Director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald filmed it, with Leonardo DiWhatsit. Afterwards, Boyle and Garland sat in a cocktail bar and said: "That was great. Let's do it again." The result is 28 Days Later.

Copy picture

The difficulty of nuclear-war-destroys-the-planet scenarios is, where do you put the survivors after radiation has poisoned the earth? The only place is underground and, cinematically, that's boring.

Garland invents a virus that turns a normal bloke into a raving zombie in 20 seconds. The "infected" rush about killing people, although not each other, surprisingly. Within three weeks, Britain's finished and, maybe, the world. Like HIV, the virus is passed by blood, although, in the context of this script, you could have said "by looking at you". Fantasy rules, except it doesn't, because Boyle & Co are taking it seriously.

A shy, ineffectual Irish lad (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in hospital. The place is deserted. He wanders through the corridors and out into the streets of London. There is rubbish everywhere, but no activity, no life. He goes into a church full of decaying bodies and finds a loony priest who chases him. Suddenly, other half-naked people, who look like leftovers from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, appear and chase him, too. He is saved by a tough black girl (Naomie Harris) with a machete. She's unaffected, which means not-yet-zombiefied.

They join forces with a man in a high-rise (Brendan Gleeson) and his teenage daughter (Megan Burns), drive a taxi up the M1 to the edge of Manchester, where they find a bunch of soldiers, led by a reactionary major (Christopher Eccleston), who are living in a stately home. From there, things go downhill.

The plot is scrotum fill. The virus idea, the decimation of social order - particularly in rural areas - and the behaviour of disciplined troops under attack is beyond belief. The actors have no chance, or, to put it another way, ex-backpacker Garland gives them no chance. Character development has been dumped with the last remnants of logic.

The team of Macdonald and Boyle, responsible for an admirable body of work (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach) are missing their third member, screenwriter John Hodge. His absence is deeply felt.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2002
Share this with others on...
28 Days Later packshot
Survivors run from infected killers after apocalyptic rage virus devastates Britain.
Amazon link

Read more 28 Days Later reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***
David Stanners ***

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


EIFF 2011

Search database:

If you like this, try:

28 Weeks Later