28 Days Later
|28 Days Later|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Andrew Macdonald|
|Written by||Alex Garland|
|Music by||John Murphy|
|Cinematography||Anthony Dod Mantle|
|Edited by||Chris Gill|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$82.7 million|
28 Days Later is a 2002 British post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, and Brendan Gleeson. The plot depicts the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus and focuses upon the struggle of four survivors (Murphy, Harris, Burns, and Gleeson) to cope with the destruction of the life they once knew while evading those infected by the virus.
The film received critical acclaim. Many praised the performances, screenplay, atmosphere, and soundtrack. The film is credited with reinvigorating the zombie genre of horror film, as well as increasing the popularity of fast-moving zombies (while Dan O'Bannon's 1985 film The Return of the Living Dead featured the first example of "fast zombies" in cinema, the concept was largely neglected in media until after the release of 28 Days Later). It was also a financial success, grossing more than $82.7 million worldwide on its modest budget of $8 million and becoming one of the most profitable horror films of 2002.
It was followed by a 2007 sequel, 28 Weeks Later, a graphic novel titled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, which expands on the timeline of the outbreak, and a 2009 comic book series titled 28 Days Later. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 97th best British film ever.
A highly contagious, rage-inducing virus is unleashed in Great Britain after a group of animal liberation activists attempt to free chimpanzees infected with the virus in Cambridge, spreading quickly among the populace and resulting in societal collapse. 28 days after the initial outbreak, bicycle courier Jim awakens from a coma in St Thomas' Hospital in London, where he discovers the city deserted. Wandering through London and finding signs of catastrophe, he is eventually attacked by humans infected by the virus, but rescued by survivors Selena and Mark. The two inform Jim about the virus, which is believed to have spread worldwide. At Jim's request, the group travels to his parents' house in Deptford, where he learns they committed suicide. That night, Jim wanders around the house kitchen and lights up a candle, unwittingly attracting two infected neighbours who charge at Jim through the window. In the ensuing struggle, Mark accidentally slashes himself in the arm with the knife he used during the attack and Selena kills him before he turns.
After leaving the house, Jim and Selena encounter cab driver Frank and his daughter Hannah at Balfron Tower. Frank informs Jim and Selena of a military broadcast offering protection to survivors at a blockade in Manchester. With supplies dwindling, and with them resorting to drinking water from the fish aquarium, Frank asks them to accompany him and Hannah to the blockade. The two accept and the group boards Frank's cab to Manchester, becoming close with each other during the trip. When they reach the blockade, however, they find it seemingly deserted and Frank is infected when a drop of blood falls into his eye from a dead body. The soldiers arrive soon afterwards and kill Frank.
The remaining survivors are taken to a fortified mansion under the command of Major Henry West. However, the safety promised by the soldiers turns out to be false when West reveals to Jim that the broadcast was intended to lure female survivors into sexual slavery. Jim refuses to be complicit with the soldiers' plan and attempts to escape with Selena and Hannah, but they're stopped by West’s men. One of the soldiers, Sgt. Farrell, dissents and tries to help the trio, but both he and Jim are locked up and are to be executed the next morning. Farell explains to Jim his theory that Britain has been quarantined, and the rest of the world remains uninfected.
The next morning, Jim and Farrell are marched out to an infected mass grave. Jim hides and escapes after Farrell distracts their executioners. While fleeing, Jim notices a plane streaming overhead and realises Farrell’s theory is correct. Meanwhile, Selena and Hannah are forcibly stripped and abused by West’s men. Jim returns to the blockade and sounds the air-raid siren. After tricking West into leaving the mansion, Jim sneaks around and stealthily kills one of West’s men. West attempts to flee but finds his Land Rover to be sabotaged by Jim just as the infected begin to arrive at the blockade. Knowing more infected will come, West runs back to the mansion. Jim returns to the mansion in time to release Private Mailer, an infected soldier kept chained for observation, resulting in the infection and mutilation of half of West's men. Jim, Selena, and Hannah attempt to leave in Frank's cab, but find West in the back seat. West shoots Jim. Hannah retaliates by putting the cab in reverse, allowing Mailer to grab West through the rear window and kill him, and the three survivors escape from the mansion.
Another 28 days later, Jim recovers at a remote cottage, while the infected are shown dying of starvation. Just before a Finnish fighter jet flies overhead, Jim, Selena, and Hannah unfurl a huge, cloth letter "O", completing the word "HELLO". The three survivors optimistically watch the jet, feeling fairly confident it spotted them.
The DVD extras include three alternative endings, all of which conclude with Jim dying. Two were filmed, while the third, a more radical departure, was presented only in storyboards. The U.S. cinematic release included one of the alternative endings after the film's credits in response to intense online debates over whether or not it was a more appropriate conclusion than the official ending. One of the alternate endings was also added in after the credits in airings from Sky Movies.
- Cillian Murphy as Jim
- Naomie Harris as Selena
- Brendan Gleeson as Frank
- Megan Burns as Hannah
- Christopher Eccleston as Major Henry West
- Noah Huntley as Mark
- Stuart McQuarrie as Sergeant Farrell
- Ricci Harnett as Corporal Mitchell
- Leo Bill as Private Jones
- Luke Mably as Private Clifton
- Junior Laniyan as Private Bell
- Ray Panthaki as Private Bedford
- Sanjay Rambaruth as Private Davis
- Marvin Campbell as Private Mailer
Additionally, Alex Palmer, Bindu De Stoppani, and Jukka Hiltunen portray the animal liberation activists and David Schneider portrays the scientist. Christopher Dunne and Emma Hitching appear as Jim's parents. Toby Sedgwick plays the infected priest that Jim encounters.
On the DVD commentary, Boyle explains that, with the aim of preserving the suspension of disbelief, relatively unknown actors were cast in the film. Cillian Murphy had starred primarily in small independent films, while Naomie Harris had acted on British television as a child, and Megan Burns had only one previous film credit. However, Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson were well-known character actors.
After director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald filmed an adaptation of Alex Garland's novel The Beach, Garland approached Macdonald about his concept for 28 Days Later. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Garland explained, "I said to him that I had an idea for a movie about running zombies. I wrote it and sent it to him and the two of us went backwards and forwards with it for a few drafts... At the point I was working on 28 Days Later I had a lot of zombie movies as well as video games like Resident Evil turning round in my head." Early influences on Garland included the George Romero films Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), which he loved as a child, but he said he had largely forgotten about the zombie genre until he played the video game Resident Evil (1996), which reminded him how much he loved zombies after "having not really encountered zombies for quite a while".
28 Days Later features scenes set in normally bustling parts of London such as Westminster Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Horse Guards Parade and Oxford Street. To depict these locations as desolate, the film crew closed off sections of street for minutes at a time, usually in early morning before sunrise on Sundays and would have typically around 45 minutes after dawn, to shoot the locations devoid of traffic and members of the public – to minimise disruption. Portions of the film were shot on a Canon XL1 digital video camera. DV cameras are much smaller and more manoeuvrable than traditional film cameras, which would have been impractical on such brief shoots. The scenes of the M1 motorway devoid of traffic were also filmed within very limited time periods. A mobile police roadblock slowed traffic sufficiently, to leave a long section of carriageway empty while the scene was filmed. The section depicted in the film was filmed at Milton Keynes, nowhere near Manchester. For the London scene where Jim walks by the overturned double-decker bus, the film crew placed the bus on its side and removed it when the shot was finished, all within 20 minutes. Much of the filming took place prior to the 11 September attacks and in the audio commentary, Boyle notes the parallel between the "missing persons" flyers seen at the beginning of the film and similar flyers posted in New York City in the wake of the attacks. Boyle adds that his crew probably would not have been granted permission to close off Whitehall for filming after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. A clapperboard seen in one of the DVD extra features shows filming was still taking place on 8 October 2001.
The mansion used in the film was Trafalgar Park near Salisbury. Many rooms in the house, including the Cipriani-painted music room and the main hall, were filmed with minimal set decoration. The scenes occurring upstairs were filmed downstairs, as the mansion's owner resided upstairs. The old ruins used as the setting for an idyllic interlude in their journey to Manchester, were those of Waverley Abbey, Surrey. The end scenes of the film where Jim, Selena and Hannah are living in a rural cottage were filmed around Ennerdale in Cumbria. This reflects the motorway road signage in the film which indicates the trio heading north towards the Lake District National Park.
On the DVD commentary, Boyle and Garland frequently call it a post apocalypse and horror film, commenting on scenes that were quotation of George A. Romero's Dead trilogy. During the initial marketing of the film Boyle did try to distance the film from such labels. Boyle identified John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids as Garland's original inspiration for the story.
28 Days Later was a considerable success at the box office and became highly profitable on a budget of about £5 million. In the UK, it took in £6.1 million, while in the US it became a surprise hit, taking over $45 million despite a limited release at fewer than 1,500 screens across the country. The film garnered around $82.7 million worldwide.
Critical views of the film were positive. Based on 30 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 87% of critics gave 28 Days Later a positive review, with an average score of 7.37/10. The site's consensus reads: "Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory." On Metacritic, the film received a rating of 73 (out of 100) based on 39 reviews.
Bravo awarded it the 100th spot on their list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments with the commentators explaining that making the zombies move fast for the first time was a bright and effective idea.[when?] In 2007, Stylus Magazine named it the second best zombie movie of all time. The film also ranked at number 456 in Empire's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. Bloody Disgusting ranked the film seventh in their list of the Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade, with the article saying "Zombie movie? Political allegory? Humanist drama? 28 Days Later is all of those things and more – a genuine work of art by a director at the top of his game. What's so amazing about the film is the way it so expertly balances scenes of white-knuckled, hell-for-leather horror with moments of intimate beauty."
- Best Horror Film (2003 U.S. Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films — Saturn Award)
- Best British Film (Empire Award)
- Danny Boyle (Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Silver)
- Best Director — Danny Boyle (International Fantasy Film Award)
- Best International Film — Danny Boyle (Narcisse Award)
- Best Breakthrough Performance — Naomie Harris (Black Reel)
- Best Cinematographer — Anthony Dod Mantle (European Film Award)
A heavily edited version of the track "East Hastings" by the post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor appears in the film, but the track is excluded from the soundtrack, because Boyle could only obtain the rights to use it in the film.
28 Days Later: The Soundtrack Album was released on 17 June 2003. A modified version of the soundtrack "In The House – In A Heartbeat" was used as the character Big Daddy's theme in the 2010 film Kick-Ass. The same song was played in the 2012 advertisement campaign of Louis Vuitton, L'Invitation au Voyage. In 2019, the song was remixed to include the theme of The Terminator by Brad Fiedel for the second trailer of Terminator: Dark Fate.
A sequel, 28 Weeks Later, was released on 11 May 2007. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took producing roles alongside Andrew Macdonald. The plot revolves around the arrival of American troops about seven months after the incidents in the original film, attempting to restore order and revitalise a nearly desolate Britain. The cast for this sequel includes Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Imogen Poots, Harold Perrineau, Catherine McCormack, Mackintosh Muggleton, and Idris Elba.
In March 2007, Danny Boyle claimed to be interested in making a third film in the series, 28 Months Later. In 2019, Boyle was quoted as saying "Alex Garland and I have a wonderful idea for the third part".
Fox Atomic Comics, in association with HarperCollins, released a graphic novel bridging the time gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, titled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, written by Steve Niles.
28 Days Later, a comic sequel also linking Days and Weeks and produced by Fox Atomic (until its demise) and Boom! Studios, began production in 2009. The series focuses on Selena and answers questions about her in the film and her sequel whereabouts.
28 Days Later had an impact on horror films, and was credited with starting a revival for the zombie genre, along with the Resident Evil franchise. The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, for example, was influenced by 28 Days Later. 28 Days Later was followed by other zombie films such as Shaun of the Dead (2004), Black Sheep (2006), Planet Terror (2007), Dead Snow (2009), and Zombieland (2009), as well as books such as World War Z (2006), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), and Warm Bodies (2010), and zombie-themed graphic novels and television shows such as The Walking Dead. The zombie revival trend lasted for more than a decade after 28 Days Later, before eventually declining in popularity by the late 2010s.
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