28 Days Later is a 2002 British post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Danny Boyle. With a screenplay written by Alex Garland, the film stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Noah Huntley, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston. Set in Great Britain, just after the turn of the 21st century, the story depicts the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus and focuses upon the struggle of four survivors to cope with the ruination of the life they once knew.
A critical and commercial success, the film is widely recognised for images of a deserted London, and was shot almost entirely on digital video. The film spawned the 2007 sequel, 28 Weeks Later, as well as the graphic novel 28 Days Later: The Aftermath.
28 days later, a bicycle courier named Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma naked in a deserted hospital. As he leaves the hospital, he discovers London is completely deserted and rife with signs of catastrophe. Jim is soon discovered and chased through the streets by infected people before being rescued by two survivors, Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), who rush him to their hideout in the London Underground. They reveal that while Jim was comatose, the virus had spread uncontrollably among the populace; the result of which was that most of the population devolved in to vicious, bloodthirsty psychopaths (known as "the Infected") and resulting in societal collapse, possibly on a global scale.
Selena and Mark accompany Jim to his parents' house, where he discovers that his parents committed suicide by means of a drug overdose. That night, two of the Infected attack the survivors, and when the fight ends they discover that Mark is injured and is likely infected. Selena immediately kills him with her machete, explaining to Jim that infection is spread through the blood and overwhelms its victims in seconds, rendering them deadly to others. She warns that should he become infected, she will kill him "in a heartbeat." As the two journey through the derelict city the next day, Selena rules out intimacy between her and Jim, declaring that only the fight for survival remains. They discover two more survivors, Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his teenage daughter Hannah (Megan Burns), holed up in an abandoned block of flats. Invited to spend the night, Selena and Jim privately debate whether they should remain with Frank and Hannah. Jim says they seem like good people, while Selena fears they will slow her down, warning Jim that putting others ahead of one's own personal survival is a sure way to get killed.
The next morning, Frank informs Jim and Selena that supplies, particularly water, are dwindling, and shows them a pre-recorded radio broadcast loop transmitted by soldiers near Manchester who claim to have "the answer to infection." The survivors board Frank's cab in search of the blockade and during the trip bond with one another. Selena's steely resolve begins to soften, while Jim's experiences on the trip begin to toughen him up. When the four reach the deserted blockade, Frank is infected by blood from a dripping corpse and is immediately shot by hidden soldiers, who then commandeer the cab and take Selena, Jim and Hannah to a fortified mansion under the command of Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston). As Hannah grieves, Selena and Jim reach out to each other romantically. Jim discovers that West's "answer to infection" involves waiting for the Infected to starve to death, while giving hope for community survival by forcing sexual servitude on the female survivors. Shocked, Jim attempts to escape with Selena and Hannah, but is caught by the soldiers, along with Sergeant Farrell (Stuart McQuarrie), who disagrees with the Major's plan. While Jim and Farrell are imprisoned for the night, Farrell theorises that there is no worldwide epidemic, but rather that the island of Great Britain has been quarantined.
The next day, as two soldiers lead the prisoners into the woods to be executed, Selena and Hannah are trapped by the soldiers. While the two executioners fight about how to kill Farrell, Jim escapes over a wall. He observes the contrails of a jet aircraft flying high overhead and realizes that someone in the outside world is still functioning. After luring West and one of his men to the blockade, Jim runs back to the soldiers' headquarters where he unleashes Mailer, an infected soldier that West kept chained outside for observation. Mailer attacks the soldiers in the mansion, while Jim stealthily skulks around, killing a soldier and manoeuvring around the growing number of Infected. Selena, held hostage by the last uninfected soldier, fears that Jim may have been infected, watches him savagely beat the soldier to death and hesitantly prepares to attack him; Jim quips, "That was longer than a heartbeat," and the two kiss passionately. Hannah finds them and the trio run to Frank's cab, only to encounter West, who shoots Jim. Hannah commandeers the cab and backs it up to the front door, where infected Mailer pulls him though the rear window and drags him screaming into the house. The three then escape as Mailer shrieks into the night.
Selena and Hannah rush Jim into a deserted hospital, where Selena performs life-saving emergency procedures. Twenty-eight days later, a bandaged Jim is shown waking up in recovery again, this time on one side of a double bed in a remote cottage. Downstairs, he finds Selena sewing large swaths of fabric when Hannah appears. The three rush outside and unfurl a huge cloth banner, adding the final letter to the word "HELLO" laid out on the meadow. As an approaching military jet flies over the landscape, a pair of the infected are shown lying helplessly by the road, dying of starvation. After the jet zooms past the three waving survivors and their distress sign, Selena wonders aloud, "Do you think he saw us this time?"
On the DVD commentary, Boyle and Garland explain that this was the original ending of the film's first cut, which was tested with preview audiences. It was ultimately rejected for seeming too bleak; the final exit from the hospital was intended to imply Selena and Hannah's survival, whereas test audiences felt that the women were marching off to certain death. Boyle and Garland express a preference for this alternate ending, calling it the "true ending". They comment that this ending brought Jim full circle, as he starts and finishes the story in bed in a deserted hospital.
Inside, the party is relieved to find a scientist self-barricaded inside a room with food and water. He won't open the door because he fears they will take his food, although he does admit that the "answer to infection is here." Unfortunately, he refuses to talk further because he doesn't want to make an emotional attachment to people who will soon be dead. After hours of failed attempts to break through the door or coax the man out, Jim eventually brings Hannah to the door and explains Frank's situation. The scientist reluctantly tells them that Frank can only be cured with a complete blood transfusion, and supplies them with the necessary equipment. After learning that he is the only match with Frank's blood type, Jim nobly sacrifices himself so that Frank can survive with his daughter. Just as his journey began, Jim is left alone in the abandoned medical facility, and Selena, Hannah and Frank move into the room with the scientist as a horde of the infected breach the complex. Strapped to the table as the chimp had been in the opening scene, the computer monitors showing death and destruction come to life around a thrashing, infected Jim.
Garland and Boyle explain that they conceptualised this ending to see what the film would be like if they did not expand the focus beyond the core four survivors. They ultimately decided against it because the idea of a total blood replacement as a cure was not credible, especially because the film had already established, as Boyle said in the DVD commentary, that it "didn't make much sense" since one drop of blood can infect a person: "What would we do? Drain him of blood and scrub his veins with bleach?"
On the DVD, director Boyle explains that, with the aim of preserving the suspension of disbelief, relatively unknown actors were cast in the film. Male lead Cillian Murphy had at the time starred primarily in small independent films, while female lead Naomie Harris had acted on British television as a child. However, actors Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson were somewhat well-known character actors. Eccleston, who went on to greater fame for his portrayal of the Ninth Doctor in the 2005 series of Doctor Who, had already appeared in films such as The Others, Gone in 60 Seconds, eXistenZ and Shallow Grave (another film directed by Boyle). Likewise, Gleeson had appeared in several films, including Braveheart, Lake Placid and The General.
|Christopher Eccleston||Major Henry West|
|Stuart McQuarrie||Sergeant Farrell|
|Ricci Harnett||Corporal Mitchell|
|Luke Mably||Private Clifton|
|Leo Bill||Private Jones|
|Junior Laniyan||Private Bell|
|Ray Panthaki||Private Bedford|
|Sanjay Rambaruth||Private Davis|
|Marvin Campbell||Private Mailer|
The scenes of the M1 motorway completely devoid of traffic were also filmed within very limited time periods. A mobile police roadblock slowed traffic sufficiently to leave a long section of carriageway empty while the scene was filmed. The section depicted in the film was actually located at Milton Keynes, nowhere near Manchester. For the London scene where Jim walks by the overturned double-decker bus, the film crew placed the bus on its side and removed it when the shot was finished, all within 20 minutes.
Much of the filming took place prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in the audio commentary Boyle notes the parallel between the "missing persons" flyers seen at the beginning of the film and similar flyers posted in New York City in the wake of 9/11. Boyle adds that his crew probably would not have been granted permission to close off Whitehall for filming after the terrorist attacks in New York.
While travelling around London at the beginning of the film, Jim picks up a copy of the Evening Standard. The front page created by the film makers carries a single headline printed in large font: "EVACUATION", with the sub-heading "Mass exodus of British people causes global chaos." Above the main headline, there are three small subheadings with page numbers- "Who will stop them?", "Refugee Crisis Looms" and "Dangerous Animals". Below the headline, the front page contains a list of London's boroughs with evacuation information on the left side with the main body containing the following smaller headlines, in order:
The character Jim was English in the original script, and several scenes were actually shot with Cillian Murphy using an English accent. Due to Murphy's request, he continued the shoot using his own Irish accent, dubbing over his English-accented lines in post-production.
The mansion used in the film was Trafalgar Park near Salisbury. Many rooms in the house, including the Cipriani-painted music room and the main hall, were filmed with minimal set decoration. The scenes occurring upstairs were actually filmed downstairs, as the mansion's owner resided upstairs.
One month before the film was released in cinemas, various newspapers included a short panel comic book style promotion for the film, in which various scenes showed a chaotic London during those 27 days with people trying to escape the city en masse.
Critical views of the film were very positive; the review site RottenTomatoes rates it 88%. The L.A. Times described it as a "stylistic tour de force", and efilmcritic.com called it "raw, blistering and joyously uncompromising". On Metacritc it received a 73 (out of 100) based on 39 reviews.
Fox Atomic Comics, in association with HarperCollins, has published a graphic novel bridging the time gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, entitled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, written by Steve Niles.
In March of 2007, 28 Days Later director and 28 Weeks Later executive producer Danny Boyle was interviewed by an Irish radio station, where he claimed to be interested in making a third film in the series, 28 Months Later.