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28 Days Later – Review

Donald J. Trump. Donald J-Muthafuckin Trump is going to be the 45th president of the United States.

As if the universe finds personal gratification in making my life a more miserable thing to endure specifically, it would appear South Korea is also experiencing its fair share of presidential woes. Typing “president” into Google this morning resulted in the expected and ubiquitous Trump articles, in addition to pictures of Obama’s exhausted face. But news of hundreds of thousands of Koreans marching through the streets of Seoul last night also made headlines.

Apparently they’re demanding their own scandalous president’s resignation. With drums banging and horns blaring, the candlelit protesters yelled out for Park Guen-hye to step down in response to her alleged, widespread corruption. Yikes. There goes my back-up plan.

In the spirit of the end of days, I finally watched 28 Days Later for the first time. And you know what, I’m more in favor of national demise via zombie apocalypse than by way of Trump presidency.

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Danny Boyle’s then-original idea of “zombies that run” takes everything we know about zombles in the over-saturated realm of popular culture now, and sets it in the early 2000’s – a simpler time with simpler pleasures. The good old days when Britain was part of the E.U. and jet fuel could melt steel beams.

The story begins in a Cambridge laboratory, where a group of chimpanzees have been introduced to an experimental virus that is only described as “rage.” Once PETA-with-guns comes storming in to liberate our poo-flinging cousins, it only takes 28 days for 99% of the island’s population to go feral. If only we could be so lucky.

Our protagonist, Jim (Cillian Murphy), wakes from his coma and joins a small handful of nomadic scroungers surviving off snack cakes. There’s romance, strife, family bonding, and a pre-teen on Vicodin. The film focuses largely on the human interactions between survivors, rather than on mowing down the infected horde. But that’s every zombini movie, even the not-so-decent ones. And “decent” is really all I can say about the writing in 28 Days Later.

This could be because of the film’s age and how many zombaloos we’ve seen since 2002, but the threads of the plot aren’t tightly woven and didn’t engage me as well as they could have. For instance, the only zombizzle that Jim kills is an infected boy that attacks him in an abandoned diner midway through the movie. The experience is supposed to be an emotional and harrowing moment for Jim. But aside from one brief back-and-forth on the subject, it’s entirely forgotten as Jim proceeds to brutally murder an entire militia alongside an infected soldier.

This, as well as the fact that no other character seems interested in sharing any expository information on their pre-outbreak lives, their interests, or opinions on much of anything, makes the cast of characters come across as somewhat hollow. The film runs for nearly two hours, but the script seems largely pre-occupied in setting up beats of action rather than use the time to engage with the characters closely until… oops one died, and oh, I guess they’re making out now.

Moments like the grocery shopping scene and the tense drive through the zombo-infested tunnel, though well-shot and edited, could have delivered more impact had there been more scenes to flesh out characters beyond “she’s tough, he’s a dad, and she’s a girl.”

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Cinematography is the highlight of 28 Days Later. The eerie views of a desolate London are spectacular, and the frenetic close-ups of the rabid zombipperkins does an excellent job of transitioning that sense of panic into the frame. Composition and lighting was also very well done. The climactic scenes were utterly dominated by the imposing use of shadows and lightning. I didn’t take particular note of the film’s score, but it wasn’t something I disliked either. It was serviceable, neither spectacular nor awful.

Danny Boyle’s made a name for himself since 2002. The director now claims a total of eight Academy Awards, and boasts an impressive filmography including Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire. If you dig film and have yet to see 28 Days Later, give it a shot. It’s not particularly horror-intensive either, so don’t let that stop you. The film has a lot to teach on the framing and lighting of scenes, intense or otherwise. If you’re not into movies like that but are concerned for your country’s future political leadership, then watch the movie anyway and hope for a sick chimp to bite your neck.

Obligatory Number at the End: 7/10

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