28 Days Later: Brilliant on so many levels

A haunting scene in the deserted London. It gets even more exciting from here.

Once in a while, a movie appears that is so beautiful in its simplicity, so well rounded, so clear, that you simply feel how great it is right after you watch it for the first time. “28 Days Later” is one of those movies.

Movies like this don’t need kick ass budgets to tell its stories. On the other hand, they usually make a good examples of cult films or camp classics (depending on their actual quality).

“28 Days Later” is a great film because it’s actually quite simple, and it touches both of your mind and your heart – just like any good work of art should. It’s not, by any means, the greatest movie ever made, but its somewhat small scale and occasional inconsistencies and errors just make it more realistic as a project.

I am not, by any means, a fan of horror movies (zombies might be the subject I least like), but I like dystopian stories a lot. What I liked about “28 Days Later”, however, was the fact it was neither: it was a story about human nature. That’s why I find all the debates on whether this was a zombie movie fairly irrelevant.

See...

On the other hand, I am not sure if I got some of the symbolism, or if there was any actual symbolism in the stuff such as the title itself, horses or Major’s last name (West). I am not good at interpreting symbolism because I believe that, essentially, there’s no such thing as a global interpretation of a work of art, only personal.

So I don’t really care what authors wanted to say… I know what this movie means to me. Essentially, it’s about humans, and (unlike their later work on “Sunshine”), Boyle and Garland managed to make a good, if surprising, third act that actually makes perfect sense and takes the movie on a different level. (And yes, I know there are people who were disappointed at the whole soldiers subplot, but frankly, I found it to be one of the majors points of the movie).

I also liked characters. A lot. When it comes to movies with any sense of action it’s often difficult to actually care about the characters, but I cared about these. I like Jim’s story arc and the way he disturbingly, explosively transforms himself from a shy courier boy that blushes when a girl kisses him on the cheek into the batshit crazy killing machine full of – ironically? – rage. I also like the way it makes us think about the whole thing.

And I really liked Selena (what girl doesn’t want to be like her?) The character starts in a dangerous territory – as a strong black woman (and when I say “strong black woman”, I don’t mean on a strong woman that is black, but on a harmful stereotype many authors use when dealing with characters who are black females). But we soon learn it’s all just a mask – Selena is a sensitive, emotional person. She says she’ll leave Frank and his daughter behind if they slow her down, but she doesn’t. She says she’ll kill anybody “in a heartbeat” should she suspect they’re infected. But like we find out in the movie’s most climatic (and strangely erotic) scene, she doesn’t. Oh, no, she doesn’t.

... what I mean?

The bad things about the movie? Well, the theatrical ending felt a bit inconsistent with the rest of the story, and I strongly prefer the original (alternate) ending, in which (HUGE SPOILER, Jim dies and is left in the abandoned hospital). I am not quite sure why they opted to change this, since it’s the ending that makes the most sense.

Also, I could not stand Megan Burns (her acting I mean). I know she got an award before, but she was distracting here.

Everything else was good. Definitely one of the best movies of the decade.

The bits

The movie has one of the most haunting opening sequences I’ve ever seen. (Well, not the actual opening scene, but the one in which we meet Jim). The scene in deserted London, with the killer music in the background is perfect in every meaning of the word.

Remember I said “28 Days Later” was beautiful in its simplicity? Some people disagree: they see it as a good example of a mind screw.

28 Days Later: Wild Mass Guessing (Spoilers heavy, of course).

As proven yet again, Americans are scared of naked people. (But not of, say, zombies, blood, or killing people with the machete/bare hands).

17 thoughts on “28 Days Later: Brilliant on so many levels

  1. Alex

    Oh, I loooooove this movie! It’s so good, so scary, so amazing. its also the first time i’ve seen Cillian and it was unforgettable!

    the moment he goes into that room clean shaven is when i got a huge crush on the guy… His scenes with Selena are priceless!

    also, i don’t find anything “strange” about the eroticism of the climatic scene. The editing was good, the music was good, the plot was good… and it also had SHIRTLESS CILLIAN MURPHY in it. so no, I don’t find the erotic appeal of this scene strange, at all.

    as for the nudity, some people are really weird when it comes to this. I mean… pen!s!!! shock!

    i have nothing against that scene. i mean, maybe its because i don’t mind watching Cillian naked, but the scene would be ok even with another actor. there was nothing sexual about it.

    But i don’t understand how you deducted those were Americans.

  2. Sigg3

    You can totally ignore the online debates here referred to by this simple form: DOES THE MOVIE CONTAIN TRACES OF ZOMBIE?
    Check.
    IT’S A ZOMBIE MOVIE.

    —-

    Most if not all zombie movies are NOT about the living dead, but about heroes overcoming impossible odds – see: Fairytale.

    I mean, Zombieland the comedy kick was not about Zombies either, for cryin’ out loud:)

    However, 28 days later (brilliant imho) is NOT a slasher film — which happens to be a genre that often contain traces of zombie.

  3. Mira

    the moment he goes into that room clean shaven is when i got a huge crush on the guy…

    But… The first time we see him clean shaven is in the bathroom, not with Selena.

    also, i don’t find anything “strange” about the eroticism of the climatic scene. The editing was good, the music was good, the plot was good… and it also had SHIRTLESS CILLIAN MURPHY in it.

    Well, given the fact 10 seconds before it he smashed a guy’s head onto the wall and put his thumbs into his eye sockets… yes, you could say it was really disturbing for me to find the scene arousing.

    … but I did.

    as for the nudity, some people are really weird when it comes to this. I mean… pen!s!!! shock!

    Don’t get me started on this! The whole “nudity in movies” deserves a post on its own.

    i have nothing against that scene. i mean, maybe its because i don’t mind watching Cillian naked, but the scene would be ok even with another actor.

    It wasn’t even a scene… It was a 5 second shot.

    there was nothing sexual about it.

    Would you find it questionable if there WAS a sexual context?

    But i don’t understand how you deducted those were Americans.

    I admit it, I took a wild guess!

    I guess I have some prejudices towards Americans. :(

  4. Mira

    Sigg3,

    You can totally ignore the online debates here referred to by this simple form: DOES THE MOVIE CONTAIN TRACES OF ZOMBIE?
    Check.
    IT’S A ZOMBIE MOVIE.

    I agree… But I’d like to ask another question: WHY is it so important to know whether it is a zombie movie or not?

    Like I already said, for me, this is a movie about human nature. I mean, the moment our hero brutally kills another human being (not the infected/zombie- a human!!!) the whole zombie debate becomes irrelevant.

    Most if not all zombie movies are NOT about the living dead, but about heroes overcoming impossible odds – see: Fairytale.

    I wouldn’t know. I am really not into horror movies, and zombies seem to be the subject I least care about.

    You didn’t see this movie until now?
    Where do you live?

    In case you didn’t notice, I don’t review new movies/books exclusively, but as I see fit. I don’t write reviews only after I see the movie for the first time, though, I admit, most often it is the case.

    In this case, however, I’ve been discussing “28 Days Later” in another post, and decided to blog about it. It’s November and I might prepare myself for the “Favourite movies of the decade” list I’m planning to make.

    And btw, I live in Serbia. In case you didn’t know, a certain stereotype about Eastern Europeans IS true: we get whatever shit we want via torrents and don’t feel bad about it (but shhhh, you didn’t hear this from me!) So all in all, we usually get to see movies soon after they are released… Maybe even before. :D

  5. zekjevets

    Thieving Eastern Europeans stealing our copyrighted American films!!!

    Kidding. I do the same thing ; )

    But if you liked 28 days, then you’ve gotta see 28 weeks. It was even more awesome. And expands on some of the theories you’re talking about.

    Plus its got a great story/plot ending.

  6. Mira

    Thieving Eastern Europeans stealing our copyrighted American films!!!

    Um… 28 Days Later is a British film. Sorry.

    Other than that, guilty as charged! :D

    But if you liked 28 days, then you’ve gotta see 28 weeks. It was even more awesome. And expands on some of the theories you’re talking about.

    Really? I was interested in that movie, but then my friends all went “nooooooooo, don’t watch it, it’s crap!!!!1111″, so I didn’t. I really like Robert Carlyle, but people were so passionate about the hate for this film, so I didn’t bother.

    But maybe I will down… I mean, get a copy after all.

  7. Melina

    I have to agree with Alex. what a great movie. you can’t get better than this, imo. (And 28 weeks later was… ok, I guess, but this one was better.)

    I agree with this being a story about human nature! It makes perfect sense! Oh and yes, it explores the rage, what rage really means.

    It’s also evident, just like in some other work by Alex Garland, that none of it was necessary… It all happened because of random human stupidity. Do you think it’s the message, essentially?

    As for Cillian (and you just knew I’ll get to that), he was super, unbelievable, amazingly, breathtakingly HOT in this movie. And no, I don’t care where his thumbs were hahaha

    Seriously… I can barely breath while watching that scene!

    Also, since youre interested in Twilight… You do know that Stephenie Meyer wanted Cillian to play in the Twilight movie, right?

    PS- Since we’re here, am I allowed to make a suggestion? Could you do a review of “Inception”? It IS a new movie, and Cillian is in it. It’s also really good, dare to say awesome. I do hope it will win an Oscar!

    Can you do an Inception review? Please? I really like your reviews, theyre so fun to read.

  8. Mira Post author

    Melina,

    I have to agree with Alex. what a great movie. you can’t get better than this, imo. (And 28 weeks later was… ok, I guess, but this one was better.)

    Well, I’ll definitely watch 28 Weeks later and see. I might really like it. I just hope it’s not all about zombies/infected. I am not really into zombie movies.

    It’s also evident, just like in some other work by Alex Garland, that none of it was necessary… It all happened because of random human stupidity. Do you think it’s the message, essentially?

    Good point. I noticed this with Garland’s script. Once the plot starts you don’t notice it, but when you think about it, you realize everything was avoidable… But just because of one (or several) random human mistakes, they are in trouble. And yes, you could say I like it.

    I mean, animal rights activists are basically guilty for spreading the infection. And Sunshine? It was, basically, all Capa’s fault.

    Also, since youre interested in Twilight… You do know that Stephenie Meyer wanted Cillian to play in the Twilight movie, right?

    WTF?!?? No, I didn’t know this.
    Hmmm… Now let me see, I think he would make a good Edward. He is “pretty” enough, strong jawline, and he can also be really creepy when he wants (and we all know Edward should be as creepy as you can get).

    Cillian would make a great Edward. Luckily, he is smart enough not to want to be associated with Twilight.

    PS- Since we’re here, am I allowed to make a suggestion? Could you do a review of “Inception”? It IS a new movie, and Cillian is in it. It’s also really good, dare to say awesome. I do hope it will win an Oscar!

    This is a good suggestion. I will watch “Inception” and write my review. But you must know I am not that much of a Nolan fan.

  9. Melina

    “Once the plot starts you don’t notice it, but when you think about it, you realize everything was avoidable… But just because of one (or several) random human mistakes, they are in trouble.”

    yes, exactly. It makes you think about the heavy stuff. But random mistakes are what’s like in the real life… so i like it.

    “And Sunshine? It was, basically, all Capa’s fault.”

    Oh, i wouldn’t go that far.

    “WTF?!?? No, I didn’t know this.
    Hmmm… Now let me see, I think he would make a good Edward. He is “pretty” enough, strong jawline, and he can also be really creepy when he wants (and we all know Edward should be as creepy as you can get).”

    She didn’t want him to play Edward, no! she wanted him to play James. Obviously, Cillian is just a villain to her. Silly woman!

    “Cillian would make a great Edward. Luckily, he is smart enough not to want to be associated with Twilight.”

    The guy makes excellent acing choices!

    “This is a good suggestion. I will watch “Inception” and write my review. But you must know I am not that much of a Nolan fan.”

    Oh, you’re gonna love it! I promise! Its one of the best movies of the year! Cillian has a supporting role, but a important one. And he looks absolutely gorgeous!

  10. Dr. Vagrant X

    Hey, you wrote it! Cool!

    Anyway, this is an excellent review. I liked how you were able to point out the movie’s positive elements as well as its flaws without bias (I know I sure couldn’t have done so, since I’m kind of a fanboy). I also agree with the point you made concerning symbolism. When I first saw this movie I thought it spoke to the human condition, and it was only much later (after a few viewings) that I started to pick up on what could have been considered symbolism. However, I found the alleged symbolism to be weaker than what I originally thought the movie’s message to be.

    Side Note: Avoid 28 Weeks Later like the plague…okay, it’s not that bad, but after watching 28 Days Later and then 28 Weeks Later back to back, I have to say that 28 Weeks Later is something of a let down.

  11. Mira

    Thanks you. I can tell you are crazy about this film! I hope you’ll write your Top movies of the decade post- can’t wait to see other films on the list!

    I do think the movie is about human nature… I don’t CARE if it’s supposed to be about it: that is how I interpret it, and anybody can have their own interpretation that is in no way better or worse than anybody else’s (including the authors).

    Speaking of which, I do prefer the original (alternate) ending: what you think? It makes more sense to me, and it’s well rounded and all.

    As for the symbolism, I am not sure what to say. Sometimes it’s not the best thing to over-analyze movies. Maybe horses are sometimes, you know… Just horses.

    The only reason I want to see 28 Weeks later is Robert Carlyle. But then again, I don’t want that film to ruin 28 Days Later for me. So I am not sure what to do!

  12. Dr. Vagrant X

    Yeah, the alternate ending felt, for lack of a better word, more “real” to me. This kind of film would have been better off without a happy ending, especially with the overall tone they established.

    28 Weeks later is alright, if I’m being honest. It didn’t blow me away, but compared to the American Pop Crap that’s being churned out at the moment (with a few exceptions of course) it’s definitely worth a viewing if you’re bored or just feel like checking it out. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you won’t hate yourself for spending 5 dollars (US) to rent it. ;)

  13. Dr. Vagrant X

    Oops! Forgot to include this (silly me)-

    Love doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel for this film (lol). Also, I’ve actually started on the list, but I’m trying to check out a few more movies before I do the list. I don’t want to miss any good ones after all.

  14. Mira Post author

    Dr. Vagrant X,

    Yeah, the alternate ending felt, for lack of a better word, more “real” to me.

    Well, it seemed like the real ending of the movie we just watched, that’s for sure. I almost felt as if they changed it in the last moment. The theatrical ending was good, but the alternate ending makes the most sense. It makes the story well rounded and it simply fits the story the best. I have no idea why they decided to change it.

    This kind of film would have been better off without a happy ending, especially with the overall tone they established.

    True. However, you may argue that the ending we got wasn’t really “happy”, because we don’t really know what will happen to them after the plane lands. Still, alternate ending makes much more sense.

    Love doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel for this film (lol). Also, I’ve actually started on the list, but I’m trying to check out a few more movies before I do the list. I don’t want to miss any good ones after all.

    Can’t wait to see your list!

    I won’t watch any more movies… My list will be “my fav movies of the decade”, and not “the best movies of the decade” anyway.

    Just curious… Is Sunshine still on your list? I re-watched it and I picked up some interesting details I’ve missed the first time.
    (Maybe I should continue the conversation at the appropriate thread:
    http://jefflion.net/archives/535 )

  15. Dr. Vagrant X

    I have no idea why they decided to change it.

    Probably because everyone loves a “happy” ending? :P

    However, you may argue that the ending we got wasn’t really “happy”, because we don’t really know what will happen to them after the plane lands.

    I guess you’re right about that, perhaps I should have said that it was a happier ending?

    Just curious… Is Sunshine still on your list? I re-watched it and I picked up some interesting details I’ve missed the first time.

  16. Eurasian Sensation

    I loved this movie.

    Interestingly, the version I saw (on TV I think? I can’t remember) had both endings. It had the happy ending, and then suddenly it cuts to the grim ending, indicating that the rescue was all part of Jim’s dream sequence.

    I didn’t mind the bit with the soldiers. It’s a reminder of how in some people, desperation brings out the best in them, and in others it brings out the worst. I guess what I didn’t like was that there didn’t seem to be any dissent or questioning among them, given the heinous nature of what they were going to do to the women.

    Have you seen “The Omega Man” with Charlton Heston? I believe both “I am Legend” and “28 Days Later” were based on the same idea.

    “28 Weeks Later” is pretty good. I’m not sure why some people would hate it. It has some great scenes – like one where the virus works its way through a terrified mass of people.

    Another thing you should check out, Mira:
    A British mini-series called “Dead Set”. It’s a black comedy / horror taht revolves around the “Big Brother” house and studio, as the world outside turns into a “28 Days Later” type scenario. You might be able to find it on illegal download, since thats what you Eastern Europeaners do ;)

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