My Favorite Films of the Last Decade #16

Selena: Have 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 is as good as it gets.

16. 28 Days Later… (2002) – Dir. Danny Boyle

This movie is brilliant on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin. Considered by some to be one of the greatest zombie movies ever, at the same time, disavowed by self-proclaimed zombiephiles, who say that it isn’t a true zombie movie. Either way, it’s a bloody good horror movie, that is definitely in the spirit of, if not the same vein as, the original George A. Romero Dead trilogy.

If anything, I think the fact that this film isn’t a traditional zombie movie is part of what makes it that much more frightening. Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland‘s dedication to the suspension of disbelief sets the stage for a much more plausible apocalyptic scenario than the dead rising from the grave. In a world of animal testing, fanatical activists, viral pandemics, and biochemical weapons, this movie seems like an unsettlingly prophetic preview of things to come.

When a group of animal activists break into a British research facility where chimps are used for medical research, they unwittingly unleash the appropriately named, blood-borne, “Rage” virus. Twenty-eight days later, Jim, a bicycle-courier who was hit by a car, wakes up in an abandoned hospital to find the whole of England has become a ghost town in the aftermath of the pandemic, save for the occasional mad-dashing, “Rage” infected, Brits, all of whom are dead-set on essentially eviscerating any uninfected folks they can find.

You don’t have to be bitten. You don’t die and rise from the grave. All you have to do is get infected, then you’re done for. The infected are fast, enraged, and extremely contagious. And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Scary. Adding to the terror, the film has an almost documentary feel, thanks to some stunning use of digital video.

This film introduced us to the talented Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Red Eye, Sunshine) as Jim the reluctant hero, and Naomie Harris (Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) as the tough-as-nails Selena. The cast also features the always wonderful Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart, Gangs of New York, Harry Potter, Lake Placid) and Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave, Elizabeth, Doctor Who).

So, call it a zombie movie; don’t call it a zombie movie. I don’t really care. If you haven’t seen this movie because you’re too busy debating whether or not zombies should run, then it’s your loss, because regardless of classification, it’s a great movie. Put aside your hard-and-fast rules about what is and what isn’t a zombie movie, and just go into it expecting a scary sci-fi horror inspired, in part, by the classic Romero zombie movies, as well as John Wyndham’s zombie-free novel The Day of the Triffids. (And by the way, zombies shouldn’t run, but rather than go into why, I’ll direct you to Simon Pegg‘s explanation here.)

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5 responses to “My Favorite Films of the Last Decade #16

  1. Bryan Parrill

    Along with The Mist (already on your list), one of the top 3 horror films of the decade.

    Can’t argue with any of your points, it just missed making my list.

    I will say one thing that maybe you disagree with, but you neglected to mention. The theatrical ending sucks ass. SPOILER – I’m not one that insists there be a downer ending, but this happy one really felt tacked on. The good news is there is a 10 times better alternate ending on the DVD (it was also briefly attached to some prints).

    Not only does Jim die, like he should have, but the dialogue is perfect, “We move”, and the final shot is on par with the breathtaking deserted cityscapes of the opening. Brian Eno music swells, the doors close and I forget the other ending ever existed. END SPOILER

    Whenever I watch, I insist on switching over to alt ending. Without the alt, the film should not be on any great lists, but with it, I’m totally cool.

    • I didn’t mention it because I don’t hate the theatrical ending. I’m fine with the happy ending. I think it fits, with a nice bookend feel. It doesn’t upset me nearly as much as the Day of the Dead happy ending. I appreciate the alternate endings as well, but I don’t need them. And you prefer the alternate ending to The Descent, which is another alternate ending that I don’t really need, again I’m fine with the theatrical.

      • Bryan Parrill

        Technically The Descent’s (The other best horror of the decade) ending is the original and the U.S. distributors chopped it off. So Adam doesn’t really need the actual ending, I get it, who needs what the director really wanted.

        As for Day of the Dead, it’s not the best but it doesn’t bug me.

        28 days later…The ending I prefer was the scripted and shot ending, but test audiences suck and convinced Boyle to change it.

        Like I said the “Happy” ending feels tacked on because it was.

      • Nope, I don’t need the actual ending. I don’t hate it, but I don’t need it either.

  2. Pingback: Top Twenty Films of the Decade – Recap | Shooting the Script

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