28 Days Later

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

A small group of animal activists plan to storm a research complex, one in which animals are used in cruel experiments. When the group finds a room with numerous caged animals, the goal is within reach, to set the tortured animals free. But the experiments with these animals haven’t been for cosmetics or perfumes. The experiments involved a virus that causes immense rage and anger, which consume the infected. Once infected, the virus overtakes the host in mere seconds and no antidote or cure has been produced. This is not known by the animal rights activists however, who open the door on the cage of an infected primate. When the animal attacks the man who set it free, a chain of infection begins that sweeps across London. About a month later, a man named Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma and discovers the hospital is abandoned. But that is just the start, as the streets are vacant and when he enters a church to find solace, he is attacked and chased by infected humans. He runs into a couple of other survivors, who inform him of the madness that taken over London. If the three stay inside the city, there is little hope for survival, as supplies are limited and the infected lurk in every shadow. With the help of two more survivors, the group travels toward a military base, where survivors were supposed to have gathered. But are the infected the only threat in this new world?

The previews for this film claimed that it reinvented zombie horror, but does 28 Days Later live up to those claims? I wouldn’t go as far to say that, but 28 Days Later is a fun movie that brings some new life into survival horror, to be sure. The pace is fast and manic in most scenes, especially in the first half, which holds most of the film’s better moments. The basics of the virus are simple and well explained, as the virus overtakes people in mere seconds. This is a new twist on the usual genre movies, which allows hours or even days for a transformation to be complete. When the movie moves fast, it is a load of fun that makes a great popcorn picture. But it has some problems also, such as when the film grinds to a halt about halfway through, to explore a new storyline that branches off from the main premise. I know the filmmakers just wanted a more substantial storyline, but in this case, the better choice would have been to stick with the basic survival horror formula. The film moves at a frenetic, wild pace up until that point, so when it hits the skids, it really throws the entire picture off and in the end, that change of pace undermines the experience. Even so, the movie provides solid entertainment and genre fans will be interested. Fox’s disc is a great one too, so I more than recommend 28 Days Later.

The most memorable performances here come from the infected, who are a blast to watch and provide the film’s coolest moments. As far as normal human performers, most of them just scream a lot and run all the time, which doesn’t allow for much range. Even so, if you have to nail down one actor here, you’d have to lean toward the lead. In this film, that would be Cillian Murphy, who isn’t the kind of superstar we’re used to. This is good news in this case, as a well established star might have detracted from the harsh realism the filmmakers wanted to create, but Murphy comes off as just another normal person. He isn’t given a lot to do in terms of traditional thespian duties, but he does have to look scared, run all the time, and for some odd reason, get totally naked at times and reveal a little too much. Murphy is as good as you could want in this film, given the low amount of dialogue and such he has. I doubt anyone else could have done more, without adding to the role or making some adjustments at some point. Other films with Murphy include Disco Pigs, The Trench, Intermission, On the Edge, and At Death’s Door. The cast also includes Naomie Harris (Living in Hope, The Project), Brendan Gleeson (Gangs of New York, Mission: Impossible II), and Stuart McQuarrie (The Honeytrap, Trainspotting).

Video: How does it look?

28 Days Later is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie was shot on low end digital video, then processed to derive a specific visual texture, which means the result isn’t as crisp and refined as most films. So unlike most digital productions, the film doesn’t have the look of a documentary or home movie, but it also lacks the image depth and smoothness of a traditional feature film. As such, you can’t evaluate this material on a traditional scale, so we have to compare this treatment with the theatrical presentation. I saw this movie in several theaters and as far as I can tell, this is a to the latter replication of that visual experience. The colors have been tweaked to reflect the filmmakers’ vision, while contrast is stark and consistent. You’ll see some shimmering and jagged edges, but those defects are caused by the source elements and yes, were even present in theatrical screenings. So for what it is, 28 Days Later looks more than solid here, though uninformed viewers might be quite confused.

Audio: How does it sound?

The video might be limited, but the audio on this release is superb, thanks to a well crafted Dolby Digital 5.1 option. The film runs at two audio levels, very quiet and very loud, often going back and forth at an instant’s notice. A scene will so quiet, you’ll crank up the volume to hear the soft dialogue and background noise and then boom, the action picks up and you’re left with blood seeping from your ears. Ok, so that won’t happen, but the film’s abrasive and explosive audio approach is well handled in this track. Whenever the infected creep into the scene, the audio turns dynamic and punches up the atmosphere about ten notches. All the jump scares are enhanced ten times over also, while surrounds are given plenty to do. Even the bass gets ample chances to show off, so this is one potent soundtrack. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I’ll begin with an audio commentary track, in which director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland discuss the production. This is a good overall session, with a lot of talk about the development of the storyline and of course, the multiple endings filmed. As far as the three alternate end sequences, you can find them all on this release, complete with audio comments, which explain why each one wasn’t chosen. Even more comments can be heard on the deleted scenes, while other supplements include a selection of animated storyboards, still photos, a music video, a promotional featurette, and two of the film’s theatrical trailers.

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