28 Days Later (2002)
“The Days Are Numbered”
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston
Synopsis: Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.
The ‘end of the world’ genre is crammed with promising possibilities, and it’s therefore somewhat puzzling that, with a few notable exceptions (On the Beach, Five, and – arguably – The Omega Man) it is populated with so many duds. 28 Days Later is probably closest to The World, The Flesh and The Devil in that it opens with some stunning shots of a deserted, debris strewn London (Belafonte in Manhattan in The World, The Flesh and The Devil) and slowly degenerates into a ridiculous conclusion.
The first major disappointment about 28 Days Later is that writer Alex Garland clearly hasn’t thought through the scenario with which a 28+ day coma victim would be faced if the world he knew had succumbed to a vicious virus that has wiped out virtually the entire country’s population while he slept – or, alternatively, he has chosen to ignore such realities as they would severely impinge on the story he tells.
Curiously, the mass exodus mentioned by one of the characters failed to jam any of the roads in London, which are, in fact, almost completely free of traffic; there is a pile-up of vehicles in the tunnel through which our heroes make their escape, but the road into that tunnel is unaccountably clear (likewise, the motorways from London to Manchester). People affected by the virus become bloodthirsty maniacs (living dead who can run), yet the City streets are empty of their chewed-up victims, and we never see more than a handful of the infected at a time (presumably the rest are busy clearing the cars from the streets). The virus is spread by an infected chimp, and yet all other animals appear to be unaffected. The infected only attack healthy people, never other infected, yet for no other reason than to infect them with their diseased blood.
All very shabby.
It’s a shame, because the film opens encouragingly with our hero, Jim (Cillian Murphy — The Dark Knight, Inception), awakening (suspiciously naked – no way to treat a coma victim) in a deserted hospital, and trudging through the deserted London streets before eventually coming across a huge board upon which hundreds of messages and photographs from people seeking loved ones are pinned – by far the strongest scene in the movie. Unfortunately, Garland/Cannon’s opinion of their audience is signalled all too clearly from that moment on – debris littering the streets outside of the Houses of Parliament, a church infested with the sick: come on guys, even the multiplex set don’t need that many indicators to understand that the fabric of society has been torn to shreds.
After hooking up with a father and daughter combo living in a tower block guarded by shopping trolleys (I kid you not) the film gets progressively sillier (although the hundreds of plastic bowls on the tower block roof is a solitary inspired touch). And once our heroes encounter the military outpost in darkest Manchester the whole shebang simply implodes, degenerating into a farcical, and highly offensive, prologue to a poorly executed stalk-and slash finale. By this point Garland isn’t even trying to keep his story rooted in reality, choosing instead to mine that contemptible cliche that most men, come Armageddon, will revert to their basest instincts, and drool over the opportunity of raping a 14 year old girl.