28 DAYS LATER
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Odd title. I almost skipped it because I assumed it was a sequel to that Sandra Bullock movie (you know, the one that sucked). It's not. Very much not.
This movie was directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. It opens with newsreel footage of violence and riots and the terrible things we do to each other when our barely suppressed streak of barbarism shows itself. But then we see that these images are being viewed by a chimp in some kind of bizarre lab. The poor primate is strapped in place and has wires in his skull. Other chimpanzees are in nearby cages, but not for long. Animal activists arrive on a mission to free these experimental subjects.
I always knew it would be those meddling do-gooders that killed us all. Despite desperate warnings from a lab tech, the rainbow warriors free what turn out to be infected chimps. The most immediate symptom of the infection is homicidal rage.
Cut to a black screen. The words "28 days later" appear in the corner. Then we see a naked man wake up in a hospital bed. He is confused and staggers into the hall. No one is around and no one responds to his calls. The hospital is a mess. Where is everyone?
And more to the point, why don't all directors know how to do this? This is how you start a movie! No boring exposition, just jump right in. Show, don't tell, just like they say on the first page of every screenwriting book ever written. We don't need to find out this lone survivor's life story to want to know what's going to happen to him. The situation speaks for itself.
The man is Jim (Cillian Murphy: BATMAN BEGINS) and we do eventually find out that he was a bike messenger. A car hit him and he's been unconscious for weeks and apparently missed the end of the world. He wanders the streets of an uninhabited London searching for food among the wreckage.
His new friends are Selena (Naomie Harris: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST) and Mark (Noah Huntley: EVENT HORIZON, MEGIDDO: The Omega Code 2). "I have some bad news," says Mark as he explains to Jim what happened. This infection spread rapidly across the country. Just before the TV stopped broadcasting there were reports of infected people in Paris and New York so as far as they know the whole world is like this.
The infection doesn't kill you. Instead it turns you into a raving murderer, red-eyed and slobbering and puking infected blood. Thus even if someone survives your attack all it takes is a drop of your blood or saliva in their mouth or an open wound to make them like you. The infection sets in fast, taking less than thirty seconds to do its job.
Imagine an infected person running wild in a crowded city. Anyone trying to subdue them would stand a good chance of getting infected too. It would spread fast and civilization would disintegrate in an orgy of violence. But is such a thing possible?
The only way to answer that is with a!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
At first I thought the fast acting nature of the infection was a bit contrived but the more I thought about this, the easier it turns out to be. Consider that there are many drugs (and poisons) that can have an almost immediate effect on reaching your blood stream. Now imagine such a fast-acting drug that turns you into an enraged monster (maybe a variation on PCP). It is probably within our technological ability to genetically engineer an existing bacterium to manufacture this drug.
Read more at THE SCIENCE MOMENT
Jim insists on checking on his parents with predictable but sadly beautiful results. Eventually his companions include Frank (Brendan Gleeson: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II, LAKE PLACID, THE TAILOR OF PANAMA, DARK BLUE) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns). Frank has heard a radio broadcast that gives directions to an army base and instructs all uninfected to get there and they'll be safe. But the broadcast is a looped tape. When they get there what will they find?
This is a very cool movie, tight and expertly directed. The unusual camera style adds to the gritty realism (though opinions will vary about that) and the characters are brave and flawed and worth caring about. I give 28 DAYS LATER a four on the shriek girl scale.
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