28 Days Later
28 Days Later is a 2002 British post-apocalyptic horror drama 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 intentional 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.
|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|
The film received critical acclaim. Many praised Boyle's direction, the performances, screenplay, atmosphere and soundtrack. Despite Boyle not considering it a zombie film, 28 Days Later is credited with reinvigorating the zombie genre of horror film, with its fast-running zombies and character-driven drama. 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 rights activists free chimpanzees infected with the virus in a laboratory in Cambridge. It spreads quickly among the populace, resulting in societal collapse. Twenty-eight 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 attacked by humans infected by the virus and 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, Mark is bitten during an attack by infecteds. Selena kills him before he turns into a zombie. Though attacked, Jim is not infected.
After leaving the house, Jim and Selena attempt to leave the city. In their escape, they spot Christmas lights hanging off a balcony railing of an apartment in the Balfron Tower low-income high rise, and head towards it. As they ascend the tower stairs, they are attacked by infected and rescued by cab driver Frank and his 14-year-old daughter Hannah, who had set up the lights from their apartment. The father and daughter had lost their wife/mother in the outbreak. They treat Jim and Selena like welcome guests, offering them cheap liqueur in cordial glasses.
After a hot shower and a night's rest, Frank informs Jim and Selena of a military broadcast offering protection to survivors at a blockade in Manchester. With supplies dwindling, he asks them to accompany him and Hannah to the blockade. The two accept, and the group boards Frank's cab to Manchester. They become close with each other during the trip. They raid a fully-stocked grocery store supermarket-sweep style, survive a daring raid through a highway tunnel with infected on their tail, and enjoy an evening together among stone ruins in a countryside meadow. When they reach the Manchester blockade, however, they find it seemingly deserted. Frank is infected when a drop of blood from a corpse above him falls into his eye. Soldiers reveal themselves from hiding and kill Frank just as the infection overwhelms him.
Jim, Selena, and Hannah are brought to a fortified mansion under the command of Major Henry West. Selena expresses to Jim her desire to protect Hannah. The safety promised by the soldiers, however, turns out to be false when West reveals to Jim that the broadcast was intended to lure female survivors into sexual slavery to repopulate the world. Jim refuses to go along with the plan, and manages to escape and warn Selena and Hannah. They are immediately intercepted and Jim is re-captured.
Selena and Hannah are taken to one of the mansions' many boudoirs and invited/forced to change into alluring clothing. Selena takes the opportunity to coerce the soldiers guarding them to let her spend some time alone with Hannah, considering the implications of what Hannah is about to endure. Selena (who had previously explained that she had been a pharmacist before the outbreak) uses the opportunity to try to feed Hannah pills "so that she won't care," but only is able to give her a couple before the soldiers storm back in. Zombies attack the soldiers, and the women escape.
Meanwhile, the soldiers attempt to execute Jim, but he escapes. Jim tricks West into leaving the mansion and releases Private Mailer, an infected soldier kept chained for observations, resulting in and outbreak that infects and kills nearly all of West's men.
Jim, Selena, and the lightly-drugged Hannah are reunited and attempt to leave in Frank's cab, but find West sitting in the back seat. West shoots Jim in the torso with a shotgun. Hannah retaliates by putting the cab in reverse, allowing the infected Mailer to grab West through the rear window and kill him. The three survivors escape from the mansion.
Another 28 days later, Jim recovers from his gunshot at a remote cottage in Cumbria, while the infected are shown dying of starvation. As a Finnish fighter jet flies overhead, Jim, Selena and Hannah unfurl a huge cloth banner spelling the word "HELLO." The three survivors leap up and down, and then optimistically watch the jet as they hope that the pilot has spotted them.
The DVD extras include three alternative endings, all of which conclude with Jim dying. Two were filmed; 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
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 231 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 87% of critics gave 28 Days Later a positive review, with an average rating of 7.38/10. 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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