Just Films & That - Josh
Self Film-Solation | Film 5 | 28 Days Later
When I decided to do this to keep myself sane, I wanted to make sure I covered as many different genres as possible. When it came to finding a horror to add to the rostra this was the obvious choice all things considered.
I should also make some things clear. Firstly, I am writing this pretty much immediately after watching the film so my god I’m tense (but at least its fresh!). Secondly, I am not a massive horror guy. I can fully appreciate it as one of the purer genres and have seen most of the classics. However, I find a lot of the classics have aged poorly and the modern ones just don’t… well they…… ok fine! I don’t like it when they make me jump. There! I said it! Happy now?
Sorry, like I said, I’m tense.
Going in I knew this was both a British film and a Danny Boyle film as these were some of the reasons that I picked it. I also knew a lot of the cast and the basic plot.
Right from the get-go the film sinks its claws into you and will not let go. I was riveted. The film moves at a breakneck pace as we follow our protagonist Jim (Cillian Murphy) through his journey on the deserted streets of London. Part of the films genius is that we are Jim and Jim is us. We find out everything as he does and so the exposition never feels randomly placed.
The music of the film is where the real tension lies. So much so that the score has now become famous enough in its own right and one of the benchmarks of tension building music. Scenes such as the one set in the tunnel as the cast change a tyre are made all the more nail biting by the relentless building of the music.
I loved the darkly comic moments in which the cast find fresh supplies in empty shops or bicker over which whiskey to steal. These moments of levity really make you like the characters, a likeability which only adds to the tension when it inevitably returns moments later.
Something I did notice was that this is probably one of the few films I have seen where product placement actually improves the film. The fact that the characters discuss specific brands and survive off well known junk food adds to the realism of the film but more importantly adds to the horror as we see a relatability in their actions.
I did once hear that a complaint about the film was that the zombies depicted in it go against tradition somewhat by being able to run quickly rather than moving at a slow plod towards their victim. For me this just wasn’t an issue but the film counteracts this by setting out the rules of its world clearly enough that it added to the tension in that way. By telling us that a person can turn in 10-20 seconds we set our own hearts racing by counting down and this only added to the overall experience for me.
I’m honestly struggling to try and find something negative to say. In the interest of balance, I’ll make some points.
Of the 4 main characters, Hannah (Frank’s daughter) is not given a great deal to do. When she does the performance of Megan Burns is a little weak at times. For someone living in London with a cockney cab driver dad, she has a lack of a distinctive accent as well as being a little wooden at points. Whether this is the fact that she is so much younger than the other actors or that they are all so much stronger than her I don’t know. But outside of this film she hasn’t done much more acting.
I could also make a point that Cillian Murphy’s emaciated Jim manages to overpower several trained soldiers at the end as if he himself is some sort of superhero. But that would just be another example of someone searching for realism where it’s not relevant. It is a zombie film after all.
Overall though, the film is a superb example of a simple horror formula done to perfection. The cast are excellent, and the direction is terrific, but the real star is John Murphy’s score.
I honestly can’t help thinking that the current climate added to the film’s effectiveness. Whilst nobody expects society to descend into the madness shown in the film, it did add a little spicy kick to an already delicious dish.
Originally published on Tumblr on 25th March 2020