28 DAYS LATER...

Director:  Danny Boyle

Starring:  Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston

Survivors of a devastating plague band together and fight off zombies.

Jim (Cillian Murphy) alone, on Westminster Bridge.Writer Alex Garland refers to this film on the disc's commentary track as "pure genre", which is presumably code for "ripped off shamelessly", since the film very closely parallels John Wyndham's science-fiction classic The Day of the Triffids, with other elements borrowed from Terry Nation's memorable mid-70s BBC TV series Survivors and Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend (filmed in 1964 as L'Ultimo Uomo della Terra (The Last Man on Earth), and again in 1971, as The Omega Man). Garland curiously doesn't mention these (although he does later give a nod to George Romero's zombie movies, and to the French plantation scene in Apocalypse Now Redux), but he does immediately pinpoint the one thing that sets the film apart from these inspirations: Danny Boyle's energising, innovation direction. Boyle's film impressively conveys London streets ravaged by an apocalyptic event, and the disorientation of a protagonist (Batman Begins' Murphy) who wakes up after a cycling accident to find his world has gone to hell in a hand basket. About of a third of the way through the film loses impetus. Boyle simply seems to run out of inspiration, and the film plods on for another hour before it reaches its formulaic conclusion.

Jim (Cillian Murphy) in Leicester Square.The film had a budget reported to be around ten million pounds, and most of it was shot on digital video (on $5000 Canon XL1 cameras, if you're interested). The DVD version (which, like My Little Eye, was transferred from film elements) looks pretty grotty, but it's difficult to ascertain to what degree this is a precise representation of the director's intention, or how accurately this replicates the theatrical look of the film. There are certainly many indications that the appearance of the film on DVD is marred by flaws that have been introduced in the transfer to disc, though. The image is blighted by almost constant digital video noise reduction (DVNR) blurring, or MPEG compression artefacts, which give the patches of the image a characteristic "floating" quality. The image is also compromised by excessive edge-enhancement, which is particularly evident early in the film, on the striking shots of London architecture. There are also problems with inconstant black density. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Average bitrate is 5.91Mb/s.

The film has an aggressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (at 448kbps) which certainly boosts its adrenaline factor considerably. There are several scenes, though, where the dialogue isn't well-integrated (particularly some of Christopher Eccleston's early scenes, for example). This is probably attributable to ADR looping. 

An infected child (Justin Hackney).The film is supported by a wealth of bonus features, including a very good commentary track by director and writer, who carefully describe how various scenes were tackled, and how the film was often changed to accommodate circumstances beyond their control. Boyle also explains a few underlying concepts that aren't fully explained in the film (that the zombies are particularly attracted by the tone of the human voice, for example). Boyle also notes that, although a lot of sound and fury accompanies the zombie attacks (and there's certainly a lot of claret splashing around), there's very little violence explicitly depicted. One of the most interesting topics is how the filmmakers enhanced the ending of the film after receiving a fresh injection of cash from their distributor, Fox. 

The film's ending is revisited in the alternate and deleted scenes section, which contains eight scenes totalling about a quarter of an hour (there's no "play all" option). These are presented in full-frame format, in their raw state (a couple of scenes show numerous cars on the road, which would have been digitally removed later). The scenes include a sequence set inside an abandoned light railway train (dropped because it was too obvious that it was raining outside - contradicting one of the film's plot contrivances); more shots of the empty streets of London, and additional scenes showing the zombie attack on the mansion house (including one which gives Christopher Eccleston's character an underlining moment of ruthlessness). The audio is out of sync on one of the scenes ("Taxi / Sweden"), which should have been corrected (oddly, it seems to be okay on the version playing underneath the optional commentary track). The alternative ending is similar to the version in the film, except that one of the main characters is absent (this diversion is covered by one of the deleted scenes). 

Storyboard for the alternate ending.There's a more elaborate alternate ending, nicknamed the "Radical Alternative Ending", presented in storyboard format, which would have replaced the last third of the theatrical version of the movie, and ultimately returned the film to where it began. This lasts for about ten minutes, and is presented with Boyle acting the dialogue, and Garland reading his scripted directions. The storyboards are quite detailed, and the relatively elaborate presentation makes it well worth watching. It's easy to overlook this section, since the menu option is not obvious. Towards the end Boyle acknowledges that they hit a plot problem with this version of the script which they weren't able to resolve, and the rest of the story is sketched out in thumbnail format. It's a fascinating deviation from the filmed version, and would have changed the pacing and tone of the ending considerably.

Frank (Brendan Gleeson) exhibits a moment of rage.The disc contains the apparently mandatory promotional documentary, Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later (25m), which assesses in broad terms how realistic the film's premise might be. Worryingly, the scientists interviewed agree that a pandemic virus similar to that depicted in the film is almost inevitable. 

Various members of the cast and crew are featured in the documentary, and there's a smattering of behind the scenes material, but this shouldn't be mistaken for an in-depth look at the making of the film. The documentary is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen format.

Two stills galleries are provided, accompanied by comments from Danny Boyle. The first is of production stills shot by Peter Mountain (18m). On-set photography is something of a dying art, and many, many films are now promoted using photo's of unbelievably poor quality. Mountain's photographs are exemplary, and were probably good enough to be exhibited apart from the film (many of them seem to tell their own story). Boyle's commentary identifies each location, describes what's going on, and acknowledges the value of having a good stills photographer.  The second gallery is of continuity, make-up and costume Polaroids (4m). Boyle notes that the use of Polaroid snapshots, a long-established tool of film production companies, used to keep a handy record of a character's wardrobe or make-up changes, is coming to an end, and that digital photography is quickly taking over. Stills galleries are often added to a disc because they're cheap, easy to source and let the marketing people add another bullet point to the features list on the back of the box. That's simply not the case here: the 28 Days Later galleries are a valuable addition to the DVD. 

Selena (Naomie Harris) and Jim (Cillian Murphy).The Marketing section of the DVD includes two theatrical trailers (the 1'30" teaser trailer and the full trailer, both of which use tiny flashes of shots from the film to fill in the story of what happened in the 28 days that the film itself skips over). The infection period is also conveyed by an animated trailer that originally appeared on the film's UK website. This is presented as a small image in the middle of the screen, and it's a shame it couldn't have been shown more clearly. A Jacknife Lee music video (with 2.0 audio at 192kbps), which basically condenses the entire film into six minutes, is also offered. When you start the disc, trailers for The Transporter, Steven Soderbergh's remake of Solaris, Daredevil, Bulletproof Monk and the forthcoming Peter Weir / Russell Crowe adventure film Master and Commander are presented. These can be skipped using the "menu" button, but there's no option to access them separately later. 

The feature, commentary track and other supplements have optional English subtitles.

Fox's 28 Days Later disc provides much to entertain and inform fans of the film, and an entertaining enough, thought-provoking, post-apocalyptic zombie film for those who aren't entirely won over by its charms. It does seem, though, that the picture quality of the film has been compromised by the inclusion of the bountiful bonus material, which probably deserved a second disc of its own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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