Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ten Statements About....28 DAYS LATER... (2002)

The people may not be dead..but they
might wish they were if they could.
"This is what I've seen in the four weeks since infection. People killing people. Which is much what I saw in the four weeks before infection, and the four weeks before that, and before that, and as far back as I care to remember. People killing people. Which to my mind, puts us in a state of normality right now."

1) I will always appreciate how Alex Garland's script, while never slavishly following the plots of George Romero's initial trilogy of living dead films, weaves enough elements from all three that you can see how each act represents a different Romero film.  That the story itself is unique is all the more cool.

2) The thing I love about Cillian Murphy--besides the fact that he's got those scary Meg Foster-y eyes--is how he's this slim, frail looking thing and Boyle slowly convinces us that yes, he can be an action hero even if he looks weaker and sicker than the infected that surround him.  It manages to keep Murphy's Jim sympathetic even as he's doing some horrible things to free his compatriots.

3) I think the reason why this film gets to me in its post-apocalyptic-ness where other, contemporary films with a similar set-up doesn't is the way Boyle consciously does not give us any sort of visual reference to England before the incident.  The eiree  shots of thoroughly empty highways and streets emphasize the fact that the world before the infection is over and isn't coming back.  That lack of a reference point to before the disaster only makes the reality of the disaster greater.

4) As I've said many times, the greatest villains are those that believe they are the hero, and this is certainly the case with Christopher Eccholson's Major West.  The moment where West tells Jim the real reason he set up the broadcast that brought them to the barracks is infused with such the motivation that he reveals for this deception is borne out of need and pain.  It makes this character who, up until then, we've looked upon with authority, somewhat vulnerable and transitions him into something darker and more sinister.
"I know I'm going to save the world in three years...but
I figured I'd destroy it first."

5) God bless Doyle and Garland for not forcing the attraction between Jim and Naomi Harris' Selena and letting it develop logically, organically and--more importantly--slowly.  This relationship builds only during unguarded or stressful moments, and I find Harris and Murphy never telegraph these developments.  When these moments of affection happen, they're impulsive, they're desperate and they feel natural.  But then, that's what I should expect...

6) ...because, much like the Romero films that Doyle gets his inspiration from, the humans are the ones who fuck it all up.  The Infected are a complication, but all the real effective acts of violence are committed by the characters we're supposed to identify with--Selena, who hacks up her traveling companion immediately upon showing signs of infection; Major West, who sends Jim to his death when he won't cooperate; the soldiers who seem to revel in destroying the Infected; and ultimately Jim, who releases the Infected soldier West keeps chained up and gruesomely kills one of the soldiers who is threatening Selena and Megan Burns' Hannah.  Unlike its sequel, the film never loses sight that what happens to the characters is more important than the world itself.

7) The effect used to realize The Infected--apparently using a slow motion feature on the Canon DX-1 video camera used to shoot the film--makes them unique and disturbing to look at, primarily because they seem perpetually out of sync with everything else around them.
What's worse than a rage-infected monstrosity
chasing you?  A rage-infected monstrosity on FIRE!

8) I like the fact that this film boils down to an argument about whether life is worth living or not over extreme circumstances...and not only does Garland set up Selena and Jim as opposite sides of this argument, he sets up supporting evidence with Major West and his men on one side and Frank and Hannah on the other.

9) And speaking of Frank and Hannah, I have to give so much credit to Brendan Gleeson.  While Megan Burns is iffy at best as Hannah, Gleeson's interaction with her actually informs and enhances her performance, elevating her in our eyes and making her credible even after he's received his pass out of the movie.  And his final scene, where he struggles to keep his humanity even as he knows he's lost it, is masterful.

10) Thank God that we do get these little grace notes of beauty and hope in the film, including the final moment that is so gorgeous in the message it delivers. excellent alternative to the standard zombie film that has become cliched and dull in the intervening years, a film that is about characters rather than special effects and features exceptional performances.

Pity the sequel sucked so badly.

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