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28 DAYS LATER (article first published : 2003-06-5)

The director of Trainspotting behind a contemporary zombie movie, shot with digital camera? You'd better believe it - and a most interesting job has been done with 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle, who also gave us Shallow Grave and The Beach.

Striking to look at - the emphasis is on twilight and gloomy darkness, rain, grainy images and washed-out colour - and with a story that keeps you hooked, the film starts off most impressively. We watch as animal rights campaigners storm a lab and free chimps that have been experimented on. Unfortunately, in so doing, the do-gooders unleash a highly contagious and deadly virus.

Suddenly we flash forward 28 days, when courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes from a coma to discover a deserted ward, a trashed and empty hospital and, more puzzling still, a London seemingly totally devoid of life. Startling scenes, filmed in the very early hours of the morning, show Trafalgar Square and other landmarks deserted but for strewn litter, broken vehicles and the odd upturned bus.

Jim is flummoxed but a windswept scrap of newspaper referring to a virus and evacuation procedures soon puts him in the picture. Wandering into an old church he finds heaps of corpses - and a snarling, bloodied, rabid priest who tries in vain to attack and bite him.

Eventually meeting up with other survivors - notably Selena (Naomi Harris) and a taxi-driver and his teenage daughter - Jim learns it's the end of the world as we know it, a plague having wiped out most of the population. He learns, too, that there are many more like the red-eyed priest - demonic, out-for-blood types, labelled "the infected", who make survival a hard job for those unaffected by the virus which takes just 30 seconds to reduce a victim to a zombie.

The film builds to a typical, blood-spattered finale and offers very little that's new story-wise as far this genre goes. But Boyle paints memorable images and his energetic, sometimes ferocious, direction, embellished with frantic editing, sudden and unexpected violence and an offbeat score incorporating hymns and choral pieces, makes for a fascinating experience. Rating: 7/10. - Billy Suter




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