28 Days Later (DVD, 2008, Canadian; Widescreen; Lenticular)

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Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Movies: Number Eight

May 13, 2012 (Updated Nov 2, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Rollercoaster storyline, excellent acting and directing, wonderfully realized dead London.

Cons:Everyone smiling and happy at the ending.

The Bottom Line: 28 Days Later re-invigorated the zombie flick, even though it has no zombies.


Preface

For the longest time I have wanted to make a list of my favorite movies in my favorite genre of movies, which is easily the Post-Apocalypse genre.  My approach for this list is going to be much different than my lists for Top SNES and Playstation games.  For this list I will be reviewing my top ten Post-Apocalypse one at a time in descending order starting with number ten moving up to number one.

Also to note I eliminate a lot of movies from this genre for consideration by simply holding the genre to the purist meaning of its title.  My first rule for this Top Ten list is that they have to be actual movies, not mini-series or television shows, which eliminates some excellent mini-series like The Stand and series The Walking Dead.  My next rule for this Top Ten Post-Apocalypse Movies, and my biggest pet peeve about most Post-Apocalypse lists, is that the majority of the movie that I list must occur AFTER the apocalypse.   By my definition that removes movies where the apocalypse is actually occurring, such as disaster porn like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, as well as any movie that shows civilization slowly dying like Children of Men and Soylent Green.  So in short my definition of a Post-Apocalyptic movie is one that happens after at least half of the worlds’ population has died off and the survivors are now dealing with life after civilization that we know it has broken down.

Review of Top Post-Apocalyptic Movie #8: 28 Days Later
 
The genre of Post-Apocalyptic movies has really taken a step up in the last ten years in my estimation.  The movies have bigger budgets, grander scope, and a more professional feel which leads to a better sense of immersion.  Which leads me to my number eight film on my list from 2002, hailing from over pond, 28 Days Later.  Which means it is directed by Danny Boyle, and stars such actors as Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris, all of whom I have no recollection of seeing anything else they have ever done.  But that doesn’t matter because 28 Days Later can stand on its own without any name recognition or large faces of celebrities plastered on its cover. 
 
The opening scene demonstrates how good intentions will destroy humanity as we know it (which is always the case pretty much).  As a group of animal liberation activists break into a Cambridge University lab which uses animals for testing.  When the Chief Scientist walks into the new crowd in his lab he is taken hostage and implores with them not to release the chimpanzees from their cages since they are infected with the highly contagious ‘Rage’ virus which can be transmitted by even one drop of blood contacting an opening on your body (eyes, mouth, cut, etcetera).  The animal liberation activists of course do not listen to him and quickly become the first victims of the virus as it quickly spreads through the group and the scientist.

28 days later…
Jim, a bicycle courier who had been on the losing end of a collision with a car awakens from his comatose state in the hospital.  Jim finds nobody around and signs of catastrophe all around him.  What follows is Jim wondering the abandoned streets of London, walking by many famous landmarks while he tries to piece together what has happened while he has been dead to the world, while desperately calling out for anyone to hear him.

Jim’s desire to find anybody alive quickly changes to fear after he finally enters a church and witnesses the corpses riddling the sanctuary, calling out “Hello” one more time proves that all those that appear dead aren’t really completely dead as several hop to their feet, in particular a priest who comes through the door next to him in the balcony and attacks him.  Jim escapes the church only to be chased by the ‘infected’ down the streets at dawn.  Fortunately a couple other survivors (Selena and Mark) are nearby and dispense with the infected chasing Jim in grand fashion.

After getting back to their safehouse Mark and Selena fill Jim (and the rest of us) in on what has happened to the world.  The Rage virus has spread across the land like a zombie plague (although they are NOT zombies, they are still alive but infected) and the last news that they had heard was that it had spread to New York and Paris as well, so it is assumed that most of the world is dead and not just putting the UK in quarantine.

Without going into too lengthy detail of the storyline, let me just say that Mark meets a grizzly end at the hands of Selena since apparently it takes less than twenty seconds after someone gets infected for them to become murderous super-zombies (for lack of a better phrase).  This is good for setting up the differences in the two main characters, Jim at the beginning is naïve and frightened while Selena is jaded and would kill anybody ‘within a heartbeat’ if she believed they were infected.  Throughout their journey the roles slowly change as Selena finds there is more in life than surviving and Jim finds that being a nice guy will only get him killed.  Shortly thereafter they see the balcony of a flat lit up with Christmas lights where they meet up with Frank and Hannah, a pair of father and daughter survivors.  Frank had found a recorded message on the radio promising military protection and a cure for the infection and they all venture out across the countryside.  Of course what they find turns out to be far from the promises that the radio broadcast made.

For me this movie combines great acting, directing, and story to make one believable post-apocalyptic world.  While many takes are short to conceal the presence of humans there are some really impressive shots of an extinct London, including some in front of Big Ben.  The movie starts off with a solid explanation for the worldwide extinction, followed by total desolation, continued danger throughout the movie, and an excellent climax.  28 Days Later proves to be a great movie to watch for almost every minute that it is on.  My only gripe with the movie is the fact that the original ending (ie the ending shown in theaters originally) was far too much roses and sunshine shoved down my throat to cap off a movie like this.  Don’t get me wrong, happy endings are usually nice, but this one seems WAY to chipper to fit with the rest of the movie.  While perhaps all of the alternate endings suffer from being a little too dark, no comfortable medium appears to have been found.

Apparently test audiences found the preferred ending too depressing, although I would admit it is dark it probably would have improved the movie overall, because not always are test audiences (and myself) right.  Despite the ending being far too cheerful and optimistic I still rate 28 Days Later five out of five stars for the hour and forty five minutes of post-apocalyptic delight.

 
Other Reviews of My Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Movies List 

Number Ten
Number Nine
Number Seven
Number Six
Number Five
Number Four
Number Three
Number Two
Number One


Recommend this product? Yes


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