33 – 28 Days Later

28-days-laterHave you got any plans, Jim?

Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck?

Plans are pointless. Staying alive’s as good as it gets.

Before 2002, the ‘zombie film’ had reached the self deprecating joke stage, the flesh-eating monster that Romero had given us, had now become a mumbling slow-moving joke figure looking to digest ‘brains’. Director Danny Boyle, and screenwriter Alex Garland here not only reinvigorated the zombie movie, but also the actual monster, with the now running jumping sprinting zombie hordes that would crash through windows, with the infection Rage.

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28 Days Later is not just a typical horror film, in fact if you look closer it is not a horror movie at all, we have two very clear messages in this film, how fragile even 21st century civilization is and how our society looks at women in this modern age.

Similarly to The Omega Man, 28 Days Later relies on a powerful use of mise-en-scène to convey feelings of isolation, abandonment, and despair to the audience.  Framing and composition have an enormous impact on the way the characters in 28 Days Later are viewed. In a recurrent succession of tight and loosely framed shots, characters are placed into positions of insignificance and vulnerability, completely at the mercy of their surroundings. This is clearly evident in the second scene of the film. Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens in a hospital to find nothing but empty halls and rooms, completely devoid of all forms of life. In a high-angle shot, we perceive Jim as helpless and exposed, wired with tubes and apparatuses. A close-up of Jim’s face reveals his perplexity and malnourished.  Upon exiting the hospital, a series of bird’s eye and long shots envision a desolated London, all the while portraying Jim alone in a desolated city.

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One of the most provocative shots in the film was the last shot of the second scene. The camera starts at eye level, overlooking a gigantic board of missing people flyers. It then quickly zooms in toward one specific missing child, invoking a sense of uneasiness and grief within the viewer. This shot directly played on the mind of the viewer, bringing back those same images we had seen so recently before in New York after the World Trade Center attack.

After we have now seen the new improved ‘zombies can run now’, the film quickly moves on to depict humans as always, are the actual evil in the film, especially in apocalyptic movies. Many of these films will include an obligatory scene in which a female character (sometimes the heroine, but it rarely matters) is nearly raped by one out-of-control male in order to be saved by another, thus exhibiting the moral and physical superiority of our hero and savior over all the other men around him.

Christopher Eccelston’s Major Henry West appears to be the leader of the last outpost of civilised humanity in Britain, having sent out a radio message encouraging survivors to join him and his men in the safety of their northern retreat. When Hannah, Selena, and Jim arrive, they are initially welcomed, but the Major quickly informs them of the real reason for the radio signal.

“Eight days ago, I found Jones with his gun in his mouth. He said he was going to kill himself because there was no future. What could I say to him? We fight off the infected or we wait until they starve to death… and then what? What do nine men do except wait to die themselves? I moved us from the blockade, and I set the radio broadcasting, and I promised them women. Because women mean a future.”

Monstrous is the only way to describe the behavior of West’s men. They separate Jim from Selene and adolescent Hannah, making it clear they have no problems sexually assaulting both of the females. They taunt them and even make their victims dress up in preparation for their rapes.

Yes, the women escape their attackers, and yes, Jim saves the day.

But consider for a moment. The Major who has orchestrated the entire thing, this panderer of rapists, isn’t just any man. He is the last representative of the government. He is a highly trained professional soldier who has sworn to protect the people of Britain. He is order in the face of chaos. And because his men want sex, he deprives the only women he believes are left alive of their right to say no. He reduces them to the role of toys.

He doesn’t even order his men to spare young Hannah (Megan Burns was about 14 when the movie was filmed). In fact, he does nothing to rein in his men, regardless of the outright brutality they seem to be looking forward to inflicting on the women.
What we have here is a film that discusses the way our society hangs on a knife  edge, held together on threads, but not only that how as a society we view women, What Boyle points out, is that however far we think we’ve come as a society in relation to women’s rights, we are still too frighteningly close to having made no progress whatsoever. If men want sex, women will be made to provide it. It’s not a particularly well hidden message in the film. This is the real horror of the film

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28 Days Later, was a box office success, it had a budget of £5 million, and made £6.1 million in the UK, before being a surprise hit in the United States, taking in $45 million with a limited screen release, it has a legacy that we still see today, it reinvented the zombie genre, and we got films like the Dawn of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead, and the opening of the TV series The Walking Dead definitely tips its sheriff’s hat to 28 days later. 28 Days later is a genre defining important film that deserves a place on this list. If you have never seen it, go watch it, its worth a second watch to look past the zombie movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jck5mb9lt54

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