28 days later, review: zombies in English sauce

28 days later, review: zombies in English sauce

28 days later, review

Six years after his international success with Trainspotting and two years after his consecration with The Beach, Danny Boyle was trying his hand in 2002 with a horror film, starring the inevitable walking dead. Now 28 days later it has arrived on the Disney Plus platform, in the Star section. Jim (Cillian Murphy, Inception, The Dark Knight) is a pony express who, due to an accident, goes into a coma. When he wakes up in the hospital he finds the hospital completely deserted: even the entire city of London seems completely abandoned. You will soon discover that the whole of the UK has been hit by a strange form of infection that turns people into animals for no reason, violent and eating other human beings.

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28 days later: not exactly zombie

The definition of zombie is very precise and comes from Haitian folklore, according to which some sorcerers can trap a part of a person's soul in a container, to then return it to the now buried body of the rightful owner. This would awaken as a slave, characterized by slowness, indolence and not mentally present. Over time, the idea of ​​the zombie has spread all over the world and has found fertile ground in all forms of imaginative expression, such as books, films, TV series and board and role-playing games and video games.

Over time the concept itself has expanded, going beyond the "limits" of the simple undead brought back to life by a sorcerer: the pathogenic origin (viruses, bacteria, parasites) has been introduced, capable of both restoring in life the dead, either simply to infect the living by transforming them into beings without reason, or the "chemical" origins, such as drugs or polluting compounds taken via food or water. In 28 days after the origin of the zombies is the rabies virus, artificially modified in the laboratory and tested on animals, which escapes the control of scientists and spreads in the population, making individuals extremely violent and lacking in intelligence.

Running zombie, running production

Another typical subdivision in the representation of zombies concerns movement: in some cases these undead are slow, lifeless and brainless beings, trying to reap their victims with strength of number (for example in The Walking Dead); in other cases these monsters are skilled runners, even tireless athletes who wear out their prey and attack them quickly and (that's a constant) numerous (World War Z is perhaps the film that best represented the phenomenon, with a dynamism and a spectacular never reached before).

The choice of screenwriter Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) fell on the second category, in perfect harmony with the decision to consider these zombies in all respects not of the living dead, but of people suffering from a disease that pushes them to a violent and aggressive disposition, devoid of reasoning.

It comes natural, speaking of the concept "running zombie", the parallel with one of the main characteristics of the production of the film, namely the speed. The film was in fact characterized by great speed in all its parts: the film was brought to the big screen in less than two years from the first draft of the screenplay; moreover, the many scenes shot in the deserted London were not made with special effects, but by interrupting the traffic for short periods of time at specific times, typically at dawn or dusk.

The crew therefore had a few minutes to set up the scenes, shoot and disassemble them, in a frenzied pace where every mistake would have cost dearly. This modus operandi was also used in the scene on the highway, made deserted by police patrols who slowed down the traffic, creating short moments to make the necessary shots.

Behind the mask

Once again we can basically divide the zombie genre into two big families. On the one hand, purely horror films, typically focused on the element of fear / terror, visually underlined by more or less splatter scenes and with a linear plot, which has no ulterior motives and particular symbolism; on the other, films that use history as a functional tool to convey a message, more or less complex, but typically one of criticism towards society.

As could be expected from an established director like Danny Boyle, 28 days later falls fully into the second category: beyond the stylistic artifices, aimed with determination to create a growing feeling of anguish and tension in the viewer, the ferocious critique of modern society and the havoc that is evident in every element of the plot. man is making on planet earth.

The cause of this zombie apocalypse is an artificial, man-made virus that is injected into some primates. Human abuse of animals is cruelly presented both from a physical point of view (with vivisected animals) and from a psychological point of view (with monkeys forced to watch constant videos of violence, obviously human). Environmentalists who inadvertently release the virus are not presented as heroes, but as naïve who do not really know what they are doing, demonstrating that man, even when he tries to solve the troubles he has created, also manages to make things worse. . The role of man is openly criticized through the words of one of the soldiers that the protagonists will meet on their journey:

If you think of the entire life of the planet, we ... men, women, we are here only by a poor few moments. So if the infection wipes us out ... that will be the return to normal.

The last element underlined by the script and direction certainly concerns the regression, in a world devoid of institutions and rules, of man to animal: we therefore find a grotesque representation of the soldiers who, cut off from every line of higher command, they are reduced to a herd, governed by internal laws that are imposed on others through the use of force. It is evident that the worst atrocities are those perpetrated by humans who are not sick, those who have not contracted the virus: cruelty and stupidity cannot be justified because they come from a rational mind; the law of retaliation will once again mark the authors' judgment on this aspect of the human being.

Everything is sh * t

The critical and negative point of view is well represented by the protagonist female character of the film, Selena (played by Naomie Harris: Skyfall, Collateral Beauty) and her motto “Everything is sh * t”. Survival is the only thing that matters and killing is the only way to guarantee it. Yet from the outset it is clear that there is a glimmer of hope, even in this darkness of the soul. In this sense, the role of the family and the rediscovery of the protective role towards young people is essential: the meeting with Hannah and her father (played by an excellent Brendan Gleeson, the only real experienced actor in the film) and their desire to normality, starts a path of emotional healing towards a life that could bea> better and, indeed, worth living fully.

Selena: I thought I was wrong.

Jim: About what?

Selena: These deaths. This shit. They don't really matter to Frank and Hannah because she has her father and he has her daughter, so… I was wrong to say that the best we can do is survive.

The element of hope despite the tragedies is evident not only in the paths and maturation of the characters, but also and above all in the choice of the ending. In fact, the contrast with the alternative conclusion, shot but discarded, is significant: without anticipating the two visions, the contrast is such as to make evident the tone that we wanted to give to the film.

In the culture of massa

28 days later is universally recognized as the progenitor of the revival of the post-apocalyptic zombie genre that took place in the 2000s (thanks to the simultaneous success of the Resident Evil franchise which, after three videogame titles, arrived in the same year at the cinema with the first film). In addition to its own sequel entitled 28 Weeks Later, the influence on genre products is evident: from the remake of Dawn of the Living Dead, to the aforementioned World War Z, passing through the series The Walking Dead. The following years were marked by a flourishing of zombie-based products, until the inevitable decline with the arrival of the new decade. Among all, 28 days later he also stands out for having courageously managed to build a powerful story, with a distressing and almost annoying style, with a budget of only eight million dollars and grossing ten times as much globally.

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