Can you remember those sleepless nights you had when you were a child after watching a really intense zombie movie? Perhaps it was Night of the Living Dead or Return of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead, but each generation has had their own zombie film that broke out and continued to shock horror fans. 28 Days Later could be that film for this generation.
Thrown into the crowded summer movie season, a little British zombie film called 28 Days Later follows Jim (Cillian Murphy), a displaced coma patient who wakes up and finds the city of London deserted and no one in sight. Eventually Jim runs into Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), who seem to be on the run from a mob. Jim learns that a deadly virus has been sweeping through England and that it's turning the citizens into mindless-homicidal freaks. Eventually the trio meets other survivors but their world will never be the same again.
What makes 28 Days Later work so well is the realistic angle and vision for the film. We experience everything the main characters feel. From the time Jim wakes up, we are as lost as he is. Trainspotting director Danny Boyle's camera work and filming has a rough and raw feel, which accents not only the horror but the film's real raw edge. With such a far-out horror premise it is utterly amazing how real the film feels.
Another thing that is key to making this film work is the cast of relative unknowns. The only recognizable faces are that of Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston. Gleeson was last seen in Gangs of New York and Dark Blue. Eccleston, on the other hand, has had quite a range of projects from the indie fan-fave 24 Hour Party People to the Nicolas Cage actioner, Gone in 60 Seconds.
I really like the no-holds-barred edge of 28 Days Later and I also found myself cheering for the heroes in this film. In previous zombie films, the filmmakers would often make all the characters except maybe one central figure absolutely despicable. Then you would cheer for the zombies to win in sort of a Survivor square-off.
I really hope to see Naomie Harris and Cillian Murphy emerge from this film in other projects. I really liked their performances. Harris displayed such a cold but vulnerable character that has a lot in common with the character of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in the show's final seasons. As for Murphy, I hope he can learn from Eccleston and have an interesting career of character acting. I think the same of him as I did when I first saw Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. I could see Murphy having the same career Ewan would have had without the Star Wars prequels.
28 Days Later is such a surprise incased in a lacklustre-blockbuster summer movie season. So brush back the tinsel and seek out this little gem. (4.25 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.