28 days too late

The concept of 28 Days Later, not to mention its top-ranking production team should have guaranteed a cracking watch, but product placement overkill, poor direction and unwarranted gore ruined it for this reviewer…

If ever you needed advice on midnight munchies, 28 Days Later could supply you with a whole menu.
Pepsi, Mars, Nestle, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange all have their names bandied about with shameless regularity. Surely, I thought to myself, it was only a matter of time before Shane Richie chirpily popped up to perform a Daz doorstep challenge on a desolate London street.

Unfortunately though, there is nothing "whiter than white" about this film.

The latest effort from the Trainspotting crew tells the clichéd story of comatose Jim (Cillian Murphy) - an Irish bicycle courier - who wakes up in a London devoid of people because activists fighting for animal liberation has accidentally released chimps infected with “rage."

In just 28 days the virus has spread throughout the world leaving only red-eyed zombie-like freak survivors intent on killing anyone else.

Jim, however, teams up with uninfected survivors: Selena (Naomi Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) who plan to escape London by heading north where soldiers promise a “safe haven."

Unsurprisingly, when they arrive at the stately home - where Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) leads his sinister military outfit - the guests are duly subject to further dangers that leave one of them dead and the other three fleeing for their lives.

Director Danny Boyle has created an inventive and visually striking display of cinematography. But an appalling narrative ruins the memorable scenes, such as the wonderful portrayal of what a deserted London would look like.

It is surely just the first in a series of apocalyptic horrors cashing in on the fear people now live in due to potential terrorist attacks in major cities.

Aside from this criticism the film's storyline also lacks direction, trying instead to survive on traditional horror cinematography and its tired wanton gore effects.

Traditional zombie-like creatures have been re-styled into quick and high-speed demons, but like the re-invention of the Skoda it isn't enough for most people.

28 Days Later would make a great comedy as the film characters' acting skills resemble more incapacitated Pinocchio than sole survivors of a global epidemic.

The concept itself thought provoking, but the characterisation is wholly unbelievable and the audience is told nothing about any of the characters' history.

There is also an ill-suggested over-use of after-thoughts by characters as if they are writing their own biographies out loud.

Despite some polite shocks stuck in for good gesture, this is about as much to the horror genre as Harry Potter is to pornography. The zombie attacks were hardly as forthcoming as you might expect from an entire nation of infected people, giving the viewer the impression the production team simply couldn't be bothered.

Maybe as viewers, we are simply too engrossed in Hollywood's "all-explosives-or-nothing" approach to appreciate this film’s subtle pace.

28 Days Later does not resort to constant imagery like some recent American "wish-they-were-British-made" films. This is what makes the first half of the film a success - before Boyle resorts to bloodlust seemingly for the sake of it.

At the same time, this is not a low-budget movie so why did some of the shooting look like it was commissioned by Blue Peter? It could, at points have been shot by media studies students with a DV camera.

I found myself asking too many questions at the film’s denouement. Did the survivors have to restart the human race? Had the rest of the world been infected too or had Britain been quarantined, as was constantly suggested? And how exactly did rake-like Jim manage to outwit an army of trained soldiers having just come out of a coma on a diet of nothing but tinned food?

Would I watch it again? Yes, but I would take a plasterer with me to fill in the holes in its plot.

This is a British movie, a Boyle film, and screen written by the talented young novelist, Alex Garland; but don't let any of these facts lead you to expect too much, you'll only be disappointed.

28 Days Later is available to rent on VHS/DVD