You could call this Outbreak of the Living Dead, as it takes the idea of a deadly virus and merges it with marauding zombies. Only these zombies don’t stumble around blankly; they run and spit and snarl and flash their beady red eyes! The film opens with a brief prologue in which we see a virus called “rage” accidentally liberated from an animal-testing lab. Then 28 days later a young man named Jim (Cillian Murphy, a Jim Caviezel lookalike) wakes up from a coma and staggers into a very empty London, clueless as to what has happened. He meets a few uninfected survivors and links up with Selena (Naomie Harris) to battle the undead. After hearing a remote radio broadcast, they team up with a father and daughter (Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns) to travel north to join a group of soldiers led by the slightly wild-eyed Major West (Christopher Eccleston), who has a theory about how to survive.
It’s unclear why director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”) shot this using what looks like a consumer video camera, because the images are slightly blurred and the action scenes are hard to see in any detail. Fortunately, he has a terrific eye, so the film as a whole is very well directed, with clever camera work that builds the tension and actually jolts us out of our seats a few times.
The cast is natural and solid, letting us identify with the characters and injecting some humour just when we need it. Screenwriter Alex Garland, is obviously enamored with both the undead and mentally unstable control freaks, as the plot changes into something altogether different from your garden variety zombie movie. Like his novel The Beach, the story is startlingly gruesome, with one clever twist and a bunch of truly nasty developments that don’t sit right with the characters (for the record, Boyle significantly altered the plot in his film of The Beach). This gruesome plotting combines with the gritty visual style to make the film an unsettling, creepy experience, complete with very strange sound editing and eerie musical choices that accent the offbeat post-apocalyptic imagery remarkably. But this just makes us wish Boyle had shot on film so we could see it more clearly.