Neil Young’s Film Lounge – 28 Days Later

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

28 DAYS LATER

5/10

UK 2002 : Danny Boyle : 100 mins

A young bicycle-courier named Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes in hospital after an accident to find London deserted. As he wanders the abandoned streets, he discovers Britain has been ravaged by a mysterious virus that turns its victims into crazed psychotics. Among the few survivors remaining uninfected are street-wise Selena (Naomie Harris), and father-and-daughter duo Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns). Drawn by a radio announcement, the quartet make their way across country to the north-west, dodging the infected at every turn. But surprises lie in wait at their destination

An unashamedly derivative but reasonably engaging entry into the well-worn post-apocalyptic genre of sci-fi horror, 28 Days Later reunites director Boyle with Alex Garland, the novelist behind The Beach. This is Garlands first script written directly for the screen, and it shows as well as various distracting basic plot-holes (where are all the rats?) the story too closely follows to its countless forebears in books and movies, especially John Wyndhams original Day of the Triffids novel, with a resulting air of over-familiarity and predictability. No less damaging is the clunky dialogue the hapless Harris seems to get all of the worst, most awkwardly expositional lines.

After a couple of badly-received TV movies, this is director Boyles first cinema feature made using Digital Video cameras along with legendary dogme cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, he comes up with some striking images of the city and the country. And the new medium proves surprisingly well-suited to what becomes, after the strikingly slow and eerie empty-London early stretches, a surprisingly fast-moving, intermittently gory thriller.

The latter stages, in which Jim and co meet a troop of soldiers under the patrician control of Major West (Christopher Eccleston), at times even recall the thick-ear, squaddies-v-monsters pleasures of Dog Soldiers. But this is a more accomplished picture than that rough-and-ready crowdpleaser Boyle and Dod Mantle show an unexpected flair for action sequences that, if nothing else, keeps things moving along all the way up to a joltingly sudden, bracingly downbeat final freeze-frame Except, sadly, it isn’t actually the end. Garland and Boyle tack on a limply optimistic coda, filmed on conventional celluloid, and it represents a crucial, fatal loss of nerve.

16th October, 2002
(seen 5th, Odeon Mansfield)

  

by Neil Young