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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    Italian, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 7 Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Danny Boyle and Alex Garland
  • 2 Photo gallery
  • Music video
  • Storyboards
  • Documentaries
  • 2 Alternate ending

28 Days Later

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 108 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

No, itís not a new formula for a film. Absolutely not. But it is a modern twist on an older theme. Dealing not with a modern punk metal band, 28 Days Later tells the searingly believable story of life in England after a deadly virus has swept the nation, leaving a few suddenly resolute survivors in its wake.

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed amidst no sign of life. No one is about and all is quite; the natural hum of the busy city has been silenced and all is desolate. He wanders the abandoned streets of London, seeing the aftermath of chaos all around and yet finding nobody alive. When he discovers living people in a church, he senses all is not well and is suddenly running for his life from a shambling horde of broken and screaming people.

He is soon rescued by two others who seem untouched by whatever madness is upon the rest, and after a bloody escape, Jim tells his story of being in a bicycle accident and comatose for the last month. They inform him of a viral infection that has swept the land, not killing people, but driving them insane with rage. Jim decides he must find his family, and after attempts to talk him out of it, they all travel across the dead city to his family home.

"Itís like going on holidays with your f*ckiní auntÖ"

What follows is a series of harrowing events leading them to picking up other survivors and heading for a safe route out of the country with the Army. However, all is not as it seems in this strange new place and madness takes many forms...

With loving tips of the cap to classic science fiction like John Wyndhamís The Day of the Triffids and more recent epics like Stephen Kingís The Stand, 28 Days Later is a film that can proudly sit alongside other more serious post-civilisation films. No high octane-fuelled car chases here; instead a realistic and very human look at the base levels of humanity. The tension created by our own darkest reaches is palpable as director Danny Boyle strings us along, re-creating the horror films of bygone days with red-eyed assailants spewing blood through screaming maws.

As noted, the idea is not a recent one, however, the angle is less aged. I recently read a similar science fiction novel so well researched as to be similarly terrifying. Violence and anger as a disease is the subject of Daniel Hechtís The Babylon Effect in which it is clinically theorised the violence of today blooming like a giant, rotting wound across the world; more intense now than ever before.

So, could the film happen in reality? I donít doubt it. The information given out in the extras department further expands on this, but Iíll get to that in due course. What remains is a film magnificently shot to get every tense second across as clearly and painfully as possible, exacting from us, the audience, a definite uncomfortable feeling that's a little too close to home.

  Video
Contract

Mostly shot on the new wonder drug of the Digital Mini DV, the film looks fairly clean and clear. There are some interior lighting issues during darker moments and only one or two occurrences of graininess. This last is a true surprise as more could be expected but happily the darks remain fairly solid, important particularly as horror films make their money in the dark. There is only one real sequence in which the black deteriorates into a deeper green, but this is forgivable, if a little annoying. The nature of the medium is not perfect yet, but given time, thereís no doubt the DV trend will spread through more and more films like a wild-eyed virus.

The rest is fine. The film is delivered here in the cinematic ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphosity and the cameras do lend a certain personal air to the proceedings, putting us on the frontline with the combatants. Colour levels fluctuate occasionally, but thereís nothing too awful while flesh tones go through any number of guises to suit the purpose. 28 Days Later looks just fine for the content and this marginally less detailed medium certainly lends its mood to the overall piece.

  Audio
Contract

Hereís another surprise. While delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1, this film is for the most part silent. In reflecting on it, the empty streets of course donít lend themselves to noise and there is little music used to evoke emotion. Or is there? This is the surprise. The film is filled with music, but it is so subtle and practically inaudible at times as to almost not exist. Sometimes we may even wonder if we hear anything at all, but thatís how it works so well Ė itís like a nagging thought buzzing on the edge of perception, fuelling the emotions with subtlety. John Murphy has created an angelic and operatic piece during the peace and an all-in metalfest during the action. Here the subwoofer goes to work and adds booming adrenaline to the action scenes. And it goes to work, let me tell you. Window rattling, neighbours complaining and deep thrumming overriding your heartbeat. Then we need a break for a while...

Dialogue is clear and direct and used sparingly, letting the images tell the story for the most part. Sound effects are particularly horrible with thousands of wet whacks and splatters of claret. There isnít a single gun to be found until the third act here, which again took me by surprise, but this adds to the nearness of the horror bearing down on us. No long reaches, just machetes and axes. Ah, the sweet wet music.

  Extras
Contract

Extras abound here like banknotes fluttering in the streets, valuable and abundant.

The first cash prize is in the deleted scenes with an optional commentary. Writer Alex Garland and director Danny Boyle both give their insight into these excisions and they are quite honest about their decisions. The Taxi/Sweden scene in particular exacts some quite funny truths about scripting and filmmaking. This is similarly reflected in the full length audio commentary from these two. Full of insight, error and introspection, it's truly entertaining.

Now for the alternate endings. This film was released on two separate occasions with two separate endings plus another unworkable one in the wings. Here we get a similar, but grimmer ending than the film itself and a fully storyboarded (but unfilmed) radical alternate ending that was too flawed to fly. However, this is read very well by Garland and Boyle in the roles of direction and characters and runs for 11:22. Of note here is the excellent storyboard by Brendan Houghton of Passion Pictures. Between the two, this ending is fairly visual and gripping and thatís no mean feat. Awesome.

Another awesome contender weighs in with Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later. This 24:21 documentary goes into detail about the threat of viral contamination for the first half, then plays like a regular making of for the last half. Truly scary and fascinating stuff and well worth a visit for any further information on contagions.

Two galleries are next, but these arenít regular galleries. The first is a short film almost, running for 18:38 with a running commentary from Boyle describing the importance of a stills photographer as we view the photographerís shots of production. Very interesting. The other is much shorter at 4:14 and is a Polaroid gallery of continuity shots for costumes and so forth.

Finally, four more bits under the banner of Marketing. Here is the teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and some very cool animated storyboards from the original website for the film. This runs much like a trailer for 1:31, but is images from the film animated in Flash or the like. Very cool.

Finally, a music video for Jacknife Lee. This is in 4:3 and runs for 6:21. It features what could only be described as a very concise version of the film without dialogue and set to music used in the film. Again, the subwoofer gets overworked until it falls over.

So a nice grab bag of collected valuables here. Very impressive stuff adding greater wealth to the film itself.

  Overall  
Contract

When you hear of a post-apocalyptic thriller with no stars in it and shot on minicams, it smells a bit like a student film. However, the exact opposite is in play here, with Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach, Shallow Grave) bringing his wealth of film experience to the party. Performances are excellent and the beauty of fewer big names is the unexpected - will they survive or wonít they? Itís pretty much a dead cert when Mel Gibson is charging through the wreckage, but herein who knows? Many will perish...

A different post-apocalypse film told with humanity and a touch of humour whilst maintaining a firm hold on irony, 28 Days Later is impressive from beginning to end and well worth the investigation for anyone after quality filmmaking and genuinely scary thrills.


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      And I quote...
    "A post-apocalyptic vision to equal and even better the majority. Brilliant and bloody!"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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