Movie Review of the Week

--Review by Riposte101 @ 7/02/03 00:10 PST.

28 Days Later

As a whole, 28 Days follows the conventions set by its genre and does not stray far from its source material, other than the fast moving zombies. It manages to find a fit amongst other contemporary zombie flicks, but succeeds in doing little else. The definitive zombie movie master is still George A. Romero and it is obvious that the director Danny Boyle has studied Romero’s films, but his attempt is ineffectual and uninspired by comparison. Boyle does however display some flair for fast editing and he possesses a sense for camera placement. The film also has a decent score. However, all these efforts are ruined by the director’s choice of shooting on DV rather than film. The DV to 35mm film telecine is awful as is always the case. The only reason to shoot on DV is if you cannot afford film. This is obviously not the case here as the movie had high production values, the endorsement of Pepsi as was evidenced by numerous strategically placed products and if you can empty London of people, you can very well afford to shoot on film. The blown up shots were grainy and the colors are subdued as DV lacks the full spectrum that is provided by film. There were times when I had to strain to discern what was on the screen. While this may have been the director’s intent, it was nonetheless irritating. Another less than desirable aspect of DV is that it is notoriously bad in low-light conditions and this film’s low-light scenes are no exception. Digital snow washes the screen whenever inadequate lighting occurs. The director stumbles from one poor shooting decision to another. It is almost as if Boyle is giving a dissertation on the faults of DV and why not to use this format.

The film begins with one of the more comical scenes of the film, when a band of militant animal rights activists break into a laboratory experimenting on monkeys. A scientist warns them that the monkeys are "highly contagious." When the militants ask him with what, he responds, "with rage!" This garnered one of the bigger unintentional laughs of the movie.

A subtitle lets us know that we are now "28 Days Later" from the occurrence of that incident. Here is where we are introduced to Jim (Cillian Murphy) waking in a hospital devoid of human life in London. In the strongest sequence in the movie, Jim gets up and walks bewildered through the streets of an empty London. He bumps into a pack of ravaging zombies and in his flight he runs into Selena (Naomie Harris). They in turn run from some more of the undead and they meet Mr. Bridges (Alexander Delamere) and his daughter (Kim McGarrity). At this point they hear a recorded radio broadcast asking all survivors to meet at a rally point several days journey from London. They all pack into a car and have some misadventures on the trip there. They meet a group of well-armed soldiers at the rally point and at this point in the film it again follows the familiar zombie movie theme that it isn’t the zombies that are evil, but it is man. It becomes a predictable retread of the study of the destructiveness of human nature so commonly preached in this genre.

Alex Garland’s script is populated with characters without a shred of common sense. It becomes apparent early in the film that Jim is an idiot and it becomes increasingly difficult to care about what happens to a character when he does not have a rational thought process. He will stroll into darkly lit gas stations for no reason, release chained up zombies while his friends are still captured, and after dispatching soldiers, instead of arming himself, he leaves behind perfectly good Enfield assault rifles. It is quite obvious that Garland has never played the Resident Evil series of video games. Mr. Bridges is not a special circumstance in that he suffers from the same ailment that plagues the rest of the characters. He drives through dark tunnels instead of taking the safer longer routes and of course this leads to trouble and he literally drives over other cars that block the tunnel resulting in a flat tire, now you are beginning to understand the inanity of it all.

This movie only has one message discernable by me and it is that "militant animal rights activists are the cause of all of humanity's problems." At least that is what I got from it.

Film Grade Formula

Zombies: +1*
Militant Animal Rights Activists Killed by the Very Animals They Sought to Save: +1*
Neat Shots/Editing: +1*
Score: +1/2*
London Streets Empty of Limeys: +1/2*
Multiple Incidents of Male Frontal Nudity: -1*
DV to 35mm Telecine: -1*
Screenplay: -1/2*

Final Score: *1/2 out of a scale of ****

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