28 Days Later 2002 Movie Scene Cillian Murphy as Jim all bloody after a fight

28 Days Later [2002]

With the announcement that we’ll be getting the final, third movie in this franchise relatively soon, I decided to revisit this classic. 28 Days Later is a grim post-apocalyptic zombie movie starring future megastar Cillian Murphy and just as good Naomie Harris. We will be following a bike courier who wakes up in a hospital only to discover that the world is now a very different place. London is eerily quiet without a soul in sight. However, Jim soon runs into both the infected and a couple of survivors. And so, his dark odyssey begins. If this plot sounds a bit familiar, it’s because The Walking Dead graphic novel (2003) and television show (2010) start the same way. We even have a black heroine wielding a sword, or, in this case, a machete.

Robert Kirkman who created the original graphic novel says that he didn’t rip off the movie but that it’s all just a big coincidence. I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions in regard to that. And I’ll point you to The Day of the Triffids, a 1962 movie that first employed that “guy waking up in a hospital after a disaster” opening. 28 Days Later is written by Alex Garland (Ex-Machina, Sunshine) and directed by Danny Boyle of his Trainspotting fame. It’s the second collaboration between Alex and Danny as they worked on The Beach just a year earlier. This time, they set out to create a different kind of zombie movie, putting an emotional twist on the classic Romero “of the Dead” trilogy which served as an inspiration for 28 Days Later. 

A movie that impressed me more than twenty years ago. The atmosphere was dreary and foreboding. Moreover, seeing the empty streets of London was constantly telling us that something was horribly wrong. This is as much a post-apocalyptic movie as it is a zombie movie. And I love equally both of those genres which inevitably go together. One is more atmospheric while the other one is more horror and action-oriented. Driven by committed performances, 28 Days Later was a hugely influential movie that kickstarted a new zombie craze. Not long after it, we got not just a remake of Dawn of the Dead but also Shaun of the Dead and other early 2000s classics.

However, if you take an honest look at this movie, it’s pretty mediocre, to say the least. To be perfectly honest, my first take was that it was shitty but I changed that to mediocre. Mostly because this is not really a shitty but more of a heavily flawed movie. While the main story is good, the script is simply unrealistic and contrived. Something you’ll quickly realize if you compare it to all the other zombie movies you’ve seen. I mean, just look at The Walking Dead and you’ll realize how silly the whole story sounds. Okay, okay, the first couple of seasons of that show, I agree. So, you’re telling me that there are no cars, no dead bodies on the streets, no nothing?

28 Days Later 2002 Movie Scene Empty London streets with a rooftop full of buckets for collecting water

And remember, this isn’t something like COVID-19 but a “rage” virus that turns people into bloodthirsty animals. Where are all the people, you might ask? Well, they’re in a church? Why are they there? Well, Boyle and Garland were traumatized by real pictures of genocide and massacres they saw while preparing the movie. The first survivors our hero meets are good. The second group of survivors is also good, consisting of a charming father and daughter couple. Now, your luck is bound to run out at some point. So, it’s no surprise that the third group is not so good.

The final third of the movie is a complete mess where we have Cillian Murphy just running around, accidentally pushing the plot forward. It’s basically a chaotic and confusing version of Day of the Dead without any substance. I think that 28 Days Later is proof that you can hype up a movie to become a hugely successful hit. People even claim that it first introduced running zombies when you could clearly see them in Return of the Living Dead, some 15 years earlier. I also can’t get over the grainy quality of the footage. I know what they were trying to do but that still doesn’t change the fact that I’m looking at a pixelated home video.

To make things even worse, we won’t get a single scare out of this slow-moving movie. The zombies are more of a nuisance than a real threat. The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning towards my initial assessment that 28 Days Later is a shitty movie. And don’t even get me started on the characters and their actions. All of them have these weird fixations and are doing things no sane person would. The only reason Jim went into that burger store was so he could kill a zombie kid. And wouldn’t you know it, this conveniently pops up some 15 minutes later. I can tell you right away that I didn’t care about any of the characters apart from Frank.

And I’m guessing that’s due to another stellar performance by Brendan Gleeson. The ending is just as cheesy, corny, and predictable as you think it is. In the end, I’m not sure why I’m even recommending you this movie. Perhaps to see if you will be as disappointed as I was, after holding it in such high regard throughout all these years. Plus, there’s a full-frontal nudity scene with Cillian Murphy right at the start, so there’s that. Finally, I highly recommend you check out the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, made by an entirely different crew. Now that’s a good zombie movie.

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Alex Garland

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston

Fun Facts: The first choice for the lead role was Ewan McGregor but him and the director Boyle got into an argument during the production of The Beach and the role was offered to Ryan Gosling. He couldn’t fit the movie into his busy schedule so an unknown actor Cillian Murphy was picked for the lead role.


IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0289043/

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