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28 Days Later

28 Days Later is a 2002 post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. 28 Days Later is set in England at the end of the 20th century. The film is Boyle's re-interpretation of the 'Zombie flick' genre, with a similar concept to the 1970s film Rabid and a storyline that will be familiar to George Romero fans. However, as reviewer Kim Newman wrote in Empire, "[t]he power of the film is not that it hasn't been done before, but that it hasn't been done recently." [1]


Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers.

The opening scene shows pictures of riots and police brutality. As the camera moves, we see that a primate is strapped down in front of television screens showing these images. A group of animal rights activists break into this laboratory, where primates are being held as test subjects; their intent is to liberate them. However, a scientist or laboratory assistant discovers them, and warns them that the primates have been infected with "rage" that is in their blood and saliva. Not heeding this warning, they begin to open the cages.

When the first cage is opened, the female activist is attacked by the chimp inside, resulting in her infection. The scientist then insists that she must be killed, or the virus will spread.

It does. The next scene is "28 days later": the protagonist, who we later find out is called Jim, wakes up naked in a hospital, in a scene that is quite clearly intended to be a parody of the opening shot of the primate strapped to a bed. He is in London, but the streets are empty. (In the largest urban centre in the United Kingdom, the filming of this was not easy to achieve: the London scenes, showing derelict streets recognisable to most people who've lived in or visited London, were shot in the early hours of the morning over a period of about six months.) Jim spends some time wandering the empty streets shouting "hello" (reminiscent of one of the opening scenes of George Romero's Day of the Dead) but soon discovers, from a newspaper headline, that London has been evacuated.

However, the city is not as empty as it first appears. On entering a church, Jim discovers it full of bodies that he observes from a balcony above the nave of the church. Again, he says "hello?" But this time he is met with a response: one of the heads below turns quickly to face the sound, mouth open and gaping. A door begins rattling and Jim approaches cautiously; a seemingly deranged priest comes through the door and makes his way towards our protagonist, who doesn't yet know about the virus, and so doesn't react to the approaching priest until he is very close. He hits the priest with a shopping bag of food he picked up earlier, but is then apologetic. The priest crawls along the floor desperately, reaching towards Jim (this scene might remind Resident Evil players of the zombies in that game).

Realising that something is seriously wrong with the priest, Jim flees the church -- as he does so, a number of "infected" chase him. As he continues to run, petrol bombs start flying towards him and his hunters -- several of the infected take direct hits from these and are set on fire, slowing them down. We are shown the petrol bomb throwers: two characters with gas masks on. They evidently realise that Jim is not infected, and take him to cover while a petrol station, which they've rigged, explodes, apparently killing the "infected" that were chasing him. Then he follows them as the run down stationary escalators into the tube, until they reach a small shop where the two are staying.

After the two unmask, they introduce themselves as Selena and Mark (was it?). Jim tells them that he was a courier who had been hit by a car, and woken up in hospital to find an uninhabited London. The others explain the situation: a virus that filled people with rage caused riots all around the country, and almost all of those who haven't been infected are dead or have fled. Before the radios stopped broadcasting, they say, they heard reports of infection in Paris and New York.

On hearing this, Jim insists that he goes to find his parents. When they arrive at his home, however, they find his parents have committed suicide with a note saying

with end less love we left you sleeping
now we are sleeping too
don't wake up x

The three of them -- Jim, Selena and Mark -- stay the night at this house. Jim, understandably shocked by what he has discovered during the day since he woke, can't sleep and lights a candle to look around his house, looking at pictures on the fridge. However, some "infected" see this light and crash through the window, attacking him. Mark is first up, shouting "fight!", and manages to kill the infected -- but becomes infected himself in the process. Seeing this, Selena kills him swiftly and unhesitantly.

Selena explains that more "infected" will be coming, so they leave the house. As they walk through deserted London, Jim spots a flashing light in a distant block of high-rise flats. They enter the building to investigate, but are chased by a pair of "infected" on the stairs up. With the help of an inhabitent of the illuminated appartment, they drive off the zombies.

The illuminated apartment is inhabited by a father and daughter -- Frank and Hannah. Frank invites Selena and Jim to stay the night. The following day, after Frank laments to Jim that the recent dry spell has deprived the pair of fresh water for ten days, Frank and Hannah tune in a hand-operated radio to a recorded broadcast from a group of soldiers at a roadblock near Manchester who claim they have "salvation" from the infection.

While the four -- especially Selena -- are disinclined to investigate, Hannah proposes that they are just as likely to die in the flat than they are on the journey to Manchester. Shortly after, the four set out for Manchester in Frank's hackney carriage (black cab). They stock up on provisions at a supermarket (having previously survived on food availiable at newsagent's -- chocolate bars and fizzy drinks, for instance), then pass through a tunnel, where the group narrowly escapes the zombies when a flat tire strands them partway through. At a countryside petrol station, Frank refuels the cab by siphoning petrol from an abandoned tanker truck. Jim wanders into a nearby restaurant. An infected boy attacks him, uttering the only words a zombie speaks in the film: "I hate you." Jim beats him to death with a baseball bat.

By some countryside ruins, the party dines and rests until morning -- one of the few locations in the movie in which zombies do not come rushing from the undergrowth. The following day, Manchester comes into view as the horizon fills with smoke: it becomes apparent that the city of Manchester is on fire. They proceed to the motorway roadblock mentioned in the army broadcast, but come across an apparently abandoned outpost, with no army personnel. The party is distraught, Frank especially so. He stalks away from the rest, sitting in seclusion. The calling of a crow disturbs him, so he rises to frighten it away. The crow had been feeding on a corpse wedged on top of a fence, and when Frank shakes the fence, a drop of blood falls from the body into his eye, infecting him.

By this point, Hannah comes to see him. He shoves her away, fighting the fast-acting effects of the virus. Selena restrains Hannah and urges Jim to kill Frank. Jim hesitates, and raises his bat, when without warning Frank is felled by a burst of machine-gun fire. The army detachment they had been seeking emerges from the undergrowth.

With Frank dead, the three ride in a truck with the soldiers and come to a country manor house where the group of soldiers (all male) are based. The three are made to feel welcome by the group's leader, and sit down to eat with the soldiers. However, the meal is interrupted by an attack of infected; the soldiers rush to their positions and man the guns, fighting off the assault.

Afterwards, apparently lustful after the battle, one of the soldiers attempts to woo an unresponsive and hostile Selina, who knocks him to the ground, creating a tense situation....

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