If you, like me, are a big fan of end-of-the-world science fiction stories
-- and I'm not talking about something sleazy with Bruce Willis going mano a
mano with an asteroid -- you'll be just as engrossed as I was in 28 DAYS
LATER. (No, it's not a sequel to 28 DAYS, starring Sandra Bullock.) At
once fascinating and frightening, the film is an edge-of-your-seat thriller
that has as much to offer to your mind as it does your adrenaline glands.
It all starts when some eco-terrorists set a group of infected chimps free.
Once loose, the chimps start infecting the humans with their super virus.
Very soon after being bitten, the humans inherit the same aggressive
behavior that the chimps had, causing them to attack others and die a few
days later. Whenever the infected people charge, the movie switches to jump
cuts and fast editing to add to the fear factor. The movie, however, no
more belongs in the horror genre than does ALIENS. Both are highly
intelligent science fiction films, not slasher flicks.
Almost the entire movie happens after Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bicycle
courier, awakes from a coma in a London hospital. Having been 28 days since
the original infection, London now appears completely deserted. Shocked,
Jim stumbles around dazed, having no clue as to what happened. Turning out
to be not quite free of people, London still has some large packs of
"infecteds" ready to attack anyone not yet infected. Jim finally meets up
with Selena (Naomie Harris), Mark (Noah Huntley), Frank (Brendan Gleeson),
and Frank's daughter Hannah (Megan Burns). Together they battle the
infecteds with whatever weapon is handy.
Most of the middle section of the story is a road movie, set in Frank's
taxi, as the group attempts to find "the cure" and hook up with other
survivors. Jim is told that in the last television broadcast, before
everything went off the air, the virus was reported to have spread to Paris
and New York. (The movie was made well before SARS was discovered, but the
existence of SARS certainly makes the film feel creepier and timelier.)
Salena's philosophy is simple. She tells Jim to forget finding a cure,
since "Staying alive is as good as it gets." As the heavenly choirs sing on
the sound track, you'll be right there with this rag-tag band of humans
vicariously trying to stay alive with them.
As we approach the last act, key questions remain. How many other groups,
if any, are out there? Is there a cure, and, if so, what could it be? And
finally, could the cure be worse than the disease?
My only complaint is that the story is so wonderfully intricate that a
better medium for it would have been an eight-hour miniseries. But, unless
there is someday a longer director's cut, this mesmerizing 112 minute
version will do nicely.
28 DAYS LATER runs 1:52. It is rated R for "strong violence and gore,
language and nudity" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes