one of the best European horror films this decade10/10
The key to keeping the sci-fi horror genre alive in the cinemas, as of late, is to make sure the material and techniques the filmmakers present is at least competent, at it's average creative, and at it's best something that we haven't seen before or haven't seen in such a style or form. George A. Romero did that back in prime 60s and 70s era of film-making, bringing forth one of the most memorable trilogies of all time for the genre. While many consider Romero to be on any given list one of the greatest horror directors (I included), it is important to know that he too had his sources for his little independent film in 1968, and after that was when he really got inventive, resulting in a masterpiece and a lackluster. Director Danny Boyle and author Alex Garland know that if they were to cook up a yarn all too similar to Romero it wouldn't be satisfying. So, they've done what is essential to the success of 28 Days Later- they take ideas that have been in practice for many years, turn them fresh, and as the audience we feel repelled, excited, terrified, nauseous (perhaps), and enthralled, but we won't leave feeling like we've seen complete hack work.
What does Boyle and his team set out to do to freshen up the zombie string? By making not in precise terms a "zombie" movie- you never hear "living-dead" uttered in this film, although you do hear "infected" and a new word for what these people have, "rage". Indeed, this is what the infected have in Britain, when a monkey virus gets let loose on the Island, and from the beginning of the infectious spread the film cuts to a man, Jim, lying in a hospital bed, who wanders abandoned streets and views torn fragments of society in front of him. That Boyle implements atmosphere as heavily as he does with the action/chase scenes gives an indication of his dedication to the detail. Jim soon finds a few other survivors, including Selena (Naomie Harris) and a father and his daughter (Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns) who hear of salvation on a radio and decide to brave it out to find it. When they do, it's a military outpost that's without any true salvation, outside of the various military typos.
Like in Boyle and producer Andrew MacDonald's spellbinding (if that's the proper terminology) adaptation of Trainspotting, the craft is on par (or arguably topping) with the story and characters, and thus it has to captivate us all the more so to care about the plight of Jim and his companions. The photography by Anthony Dod Mantle is striking, not the least of which since it was done on digital photography (like in Blair Witch, the use of non-professional camera equipment adds the proper shading when needed), but also many of the shot compositions are different for such a film. The editing by Chris Gill goes quicker than expected in the attack scenes, going so fast between the infected throwing up blood, the screaming on-looker; the new infected transforming within seconds, and then the results that follow. Mark Tildesley's production design, as well as John Murphy's music, evokes haunting, evocative moods even in the more mundane scenes. And the acting, considering not many of the actors are well-known, is more than believable for such a script.
I'm not sure if 28 Days Later will be everyone's cup of tea. Some of the horror and science fiction fans out there will immediately hear of this film, see a preview or a TV ad, or even see it, and dismiss it as phooey rubble borrowed from the video-store. I can see their points of view, since I saw many similarities in Romero and some other films (the military scenes reminded me of Day of the Dead, though the chained up Zombie in this was done for more practical reasons, and the supermarket scene is a little unneeded considering the satirical reverence it had in Dawn of the Dead). But what they should understand is that Boyle isn't making a 100% original film, and no one could at this point of the genre's history. He has done, however, the most credible job he could in getting a different tone, a different setting in country, and of a different, enveloping view of the scene structures. Overall, 28 Days Later is constructed and executed like most sci-fi horror films you've ever seen, and like not many other sci-fi horror films you've ever seen combined, in a sense, for a modern audience: fascinating throughout.