February 26, 2015

28 Days Later (2002)
Grade: 54/100

Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harries, Megan Burns

What it's about. A zombie movie set in England. Jim (Cillian Murphy) is a young nobody who wakes up from an accident-inspired coma, and finds that his city appears abandoned. After walking around for a while, he survives an attack by a zombie and encounters Selena (Naomie Harris), a comely and athletic black woman. She is accompanied by a man (Noah Huntley), but since he is less interesting, this man is soon dispensed with.

Next, Jim and Selena encounter teen beauty Hannah (Megan Burns) and her burly father Frank (Brendan Gleeson). The latter is also disposable, and soon snuffs it. Our three leads then become the guests or prisoners of a small army unit, led by Christopher Eccleston of Doctor Who fame. Unfortunately, the unit is soon obsessed with raping Selena and Hannah, although their bark is worse than their bite. This is proven when Jim and his zombie ally Marvin Campbell wipe out the soldiers one by one, and rescue our helpless babes in peril.

How others will see it. 28 Days Later was a modest box office success, and won a slew of awards at second-tier film festivals. At imdb.com, the movie has a huge 250K user votes and a surprisingly high user rating of 7.6. Even women over 45, a normally reliable demographic, grade the film 7.5 out of 10.

A happy ending, incongruous with the violence and calamity that preceded it, may be the reason for audience approval. Also, the zombie theme is ever popular, confirmed by oversized cable ratings for "The Walking Dead."

How I felt about it. It is much too easy to note the rampant plot holes. No virus could ever transform people into blood-vomiting monsters in 20 seconds. Jim could not have survived unconscious and unattended in a hospital for four weeks, and when he woke up, he would be weak from muscle atrophy. It is pure male romantic fantasy that the two people he ends up with are a beautiful woman in her twenties and a beautiful girl in her teens.

We find it incredible that a small army unit would become rape-crazed in just four weeks. But not quite as ridiculous that clueless, blank-faced Jim would suddenly transform into a Rambo-ish superhero able to wipe out all the soldiers and rescue both women unharmed and unmolested.

It's hardly worth noting that the supermarket lights are on, that Frank insists on driving through a dark tunnel immediately clogged with cars, and that the deserted city has no bodies or even blood. Why don't zombies attack each other? Or eat their victims? And why should Hannah try to drive through the gates with all three people in the car? How about letting two of them out first so that only one person (logically, Jim, who may already be mortally wounded) will die in the crash?

Fortunately, the movie is somewhat better than its story suggests. This has to do with how silly it all is, to the point where we are amused by it instead of annoyed. But director Doyle's purpose was to make a cool movie. By that measure, he mostly wastes our time.