Thursday, July 21, 2005


28 Days Later - Hello

This movie was surprisingly well done. I say surprisingly because there is only so much one can do with a zombie movie. George Romero set the bar with Night of the Living Dead and many have been clothes-lined by that bar. Not so with 28 Days Later. Using Digital Video, Danny Boyle creates a surreal London where all semblance of normalcy has been eradicated by the "infected." The shots of Jim (Cillian Murphy) wandering the empty streets of London are beautifully shot. The charcoal cityscape and muted colors make a visual statement of the life that was washed away from this formerly vibrant city.

Calling the zombies, the infected, is a nice touch. It makes them seem almost more human, after all, anyone can become infected by a virus. These living dead are not being called ghouls, monsters, or even zombies, they are just people that are infected - "it's in the blood." Is this done to make us question whether anyone has the potential to become so enraged that they will become extremely violent and out of control? By the end of the film it seems evident Jim has become infected with rage and it is not the "Rage" virus.

Having the infected filled with "Rage" adds a new dimension to the zombie genre. These zombies are not only hungry, they are pissed off. Their adrenalin is pumping like crazy through their veins and they can move very quickly. These fast movements are captured wonderfully on DV. By having quick moving zombies, there is more of an urgency when trying to evade them and it makes them more of a threat than the shuffling undead from previous movies.

The character of Selena, fantasically portrayed by Naomie Harris, delivers some interesting lines that makes me wonder what her life was like 28 days before. When she says to Jim, "Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck," I wonder if she is so cynical about relationships because of her past experiences or is she just being practical. Has she been in a relationship where she had plans for the future but her partner only had a sexual relationship in mind? I feel she has been hurt in a relationship before because of something she says later in the film, "Plans are pointless. Staying alive's as good as it gets." When she said this I couldn't help thinking of Martin in The Last Woman on Earth telling Ev all they could hope for was to live in as little pain as possible. Finally, I wonder if it is the voice of experieince that says to Hannah (Megan Burns) to take the pills, "so you won't care as much." Selena is a great character and one that I am sure has a very interesting back story.

The use of the word "hello" in the film intriqued me. At the first of the film, every time Jim yelled "hello" it led to a confrontation with the infected. Hello is just a greeting to us in our everyday lives but in the film hello became a warning that something was about to happen. Hello preceeded Jim's first encounter with the infected, it proceeded his first encounter with other survivors, it proceeded Jim's first kill, and so on. Then by the end of the film the word hello was used as a way to signal the plane flying over. It was as if the survivors wanted to reclaim this word and turn it back into a friendly greeting instead of a signal to something foreboding. It would have been easier for Selena to sew together material to make SOS, the universal sign of people needing help. Why use the word hello? Perhaps it could be looked at as another way of saying, Hell, oh, but then again I could be stretching it a bit there.

As for stretching it a bit, did anyone else think of the Wizard of Oz while watching this movie? There are monkeys in both; in Oz they fly with wings, in Days they fly with Rage. There is a girl with three traveling companions going down a road looking for answers in both. Please bear with me as I do this comparison:
Hannah (cute, optimistic) - Dorothy
Selena (strong, heartless at first) - Tin Man
Jim (scatter brained at first) - Scarecrow
Frank (looks scary but a lovable softy) - Cowardly Lion
Maj. Henry West (pretends to have answers) - The Great Oz
I know that the characters in the movie do not have all the characteristics as the ones in Oz but they are close. The beginning of Days uses muted colors then moves into a colorful country side and we even see our group drive by a spectacular technocolor field of flowers. Anyone who has seen the Wizard of Oz will remember the film begins in black and white and then changes to color once Dorothy arrives in Oz in a field of flowers. Maj. West has created a world that is almost as fake as the one created by The Great Oz.

Now for the endings. I feel the theatrical ending was a bit too hollywood and didn't suit the originality of the film. Good triumphant. Boy and girl living happily ever after. Too cookie cutter for my liking. I know there are problems with the ending that Frank (Brendan Gleeson) is saved by Jim's blood but I think I would have preferred that ending. It shows the viewer there is hope for someone who is filled with rage but it isn't an easy thing to change. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made in order for changes to occur.

I like your argument about the word "hello." I too was struck by Selena's choice for their SOS message. And what you say about the use of colour is perceptive. The contrast between the beautiful visuals and the subject matter is one of the most striking aspects of the film.
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