28 Days Later is a dark portrayal of a society on its knees. Descending into near-parody at times, the movie depicts the resulting mayhem of a deadly plague unleashed across London. Animal rights campaigners release some infected monkeys from their cages who show their appreciation by savagely attacking their liberators and spreading the deadly 'Rage' virus. Although not actually depicted in the film, Boyle leaves nobody in any doubt as to the pandemonium that then grips the British capital.
At this initial stage of the film, the director is careful not to lay all his cards on the table, in so much as he does pay careful attention to the introduction of 'Jim' - seemingly the only remaining living soul in the city. Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from what appears to be a surgically induced coma to find he is in a deserted hospital. As he trudges through the corridors, empty trolleys and medical drip bags provide a truly convincing air of abandonment. The audience is then taken on a whirlwind tour of the capital as the sole survivor wanders the streets alone searching for any signs of life. It appears from the official website to the film that the production crew managed to film these scenes during the extremely brief periods when London's streets are devoid of life. This would have been fairly straightforward in the financial districts where very few people live, but far less so in the world-renowned shopping areas of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. Whichever way these scenes were achieved, they do produce the desired effect of instilling an uneasy calm to proceedings.
It became pretty clear from the advertising campaign for the movie that our old friends the zombies were going to be the stars of this show, and 28 Days Later does not disappoint in this respect. Unlike many past efforts in the genre, Boyle has his villainous creatures run at inhuman speeds after their prey. Furthermore, their red staring eyes and fits of blood vomiting add to a genuinely terrifying experience. What sets this movie apart from others of its sort is the unnerving lunacy of those infected by the Rage virus. Their fury is just about as pure and violent as any portrayed on film. Boyle claims that he got the influence for developing the zombies' mannerisms from the phenomenon of 'road rage' that gripped Britain during the 1990s - a feeling of total and utter hatred brought on by often minor motoring incidents. The use of London as a setting for this kind of abrasive emotion is rather apt given the fact that the city can often leave individuals wishing severe harm on their fellow denizens.
Murphy is adequate as the seemingly lone survivor, as are those who emerge from the desolate landscape later on. They are rather impeded by brittle dialogue and the abundance of other overbearing distractions, but this seems less important in light of Boyle's directing that is assured and rarely strays from the impressive. What gives this movie its power in truth is the attention to detail paid by those who created it. Firstly, the use of both a modern soundtrack and old children's hymns is a masterstroke - the latter producing a truly haunting sound-scape as the remaining individuals scan the motionless horizon for signs of life. A great sense of loss and bereavement is garnered in the viewer. A feeling that what the producer is showing you is the future, a future where mankind has ultimately disintegrated through many individual flaws.
Secondly, having the film set in Britain gives it a raw edge that many of its American counterparts cannot deliver. Although beautiful and historic, there is a certain industrial harshness to London that really pushes proceedings up another gear visually. Boyle wanted this movie to scare people and reflect on what we as a society are dangerously close to becoming. He succeeded.
DVD features Dolby digital 5.1 sound, plus English and Swedish subtitles. Disc extras: Dolby digital 2.0 director's commentary (with screenwriter Alex Garland), eight deleted scenes with optional commentary, animated storyboards, gallery of stills with commentary, Pure Rage making-of documentary, Jacknife Lee music video, storyboards for alternate ending, trailers.