review for 28 Days Later on AllMovie

28 Days Later (2002)
by Josh Ralske review

Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland (and Boyle's longtime collaborator, producer Andrew Macdonald) bounce back from the relatively big-budget debacle of The Beach with 28 Days Later, a kinetic low-budget horror film. The filmmakers gratefully acknowledge their debt to a bunch of classic horror and science fiction movies, especially George Romero's Living Dead films. There's even a kickass black woman (Naomie Harris) who saves the hero's neck like in The Omega Man. But 28 Days Later has its own style. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (The Celebration) uses digital video surprisingly effectively, adding to the film's gritty immediacy, with a few nice surreal touches (e.g. the painted flowers along the road) thrown in. The dark inflections of John Murphy's bass-driven score help moves things along, too. The story is simple and lends itself to allegorical readings, with its somewhat pro forma anti-authoritarian slant. There are a few nicely played shocks, and some amazing, haunting images of a deserted, "Rage"-ravaged London. The recently comatose main character, Jim (Cillian Murphy), begins as a cipher, but gradually comes into focus thanks to Murphy's soulful performance, and his chemistry with the fierce Harris. Brendan Gleeson (Gangs of New York) maintains his excellent track record as a lovably gruff father vainly trying to keep some sense of normalcy in his young daughter's life. Things get a little ham-fisted in the last third of the film, bogging down a bit when the ragtag group reaches a military outpost in northern England and predictably finds something even worse than the diseased lunatics they're fleeing. But for the most part, 28 Days Later is a good, scary horror film, and a worthy successor to the forebears it references in nearly every frame.