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28 Days Later (18)

Review by: Marc Ashdown l Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Danny Boyle and Alex Garland; Storyboard alternate ending; 8 deleted scenes with optional commentary (16 mins); 'Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later' (24 mins); Jacknife Lee music video (6 mins); Stills gallery with commentary; Polaroid gallery with commentary; Animated storyboards; Theatrical teaser; Theatrical trailer.

IT’S certainly one way of clearing London's congested streets. 28 days after a deadly virus has all but wiped out the human race, the hitherto comatose Jim (Cillian Murphy) wanders across Westminster Bridge, down past the Houses of Parliament, up the Mall and round Piccadilly Circus.

Not a car in sight, another person for miles or even a bird in the sky. Just a bizarre and detached complete and utter silence.

It's a London never glimpsed in this cosmopolitan city-that-never-sleeps day and age; it's placidity unnerving, yet providing a fitting calm before the gathering storm.

The filming process employed to snatch these enthralling images (the film is shot almost entirely on Digital Video (DV), affords director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach) the freedom to paint stunning visuals of a post-apocalyptic Britain throughout.

It's a chance he grasps with both hands and, consequently, styles a hugely impressive, and bloody scary, film - though dealing more in the sociological and moral implications of an outbreak of such biblical proportions, rather than merely opting for a blood-and-splatter genre gorefest.

It's a hideously realistic possibility, given the current global stand-off with Saddam Hussein and the threat of biological warfare hanging heavy on the country's psyche.

A group of environmentalists break into a lab to free a bunch of caged monkeys, only to succeed in unleashing the 'rage' virus they've been infected with.

In days it's an epidemic: the world as we know it spins catastrophically out of control.

Boyle deliberately steers clear of showing the brutal details of the collapse of humanity; instead building a gradual picture through the eyes of Jim as he struggles to come to terms with the nightmare.

Of course, there are survivors - there are always survivors. And, as usual, they fall into two categories to drive the narrative: The Infected - slavering, blood-vomiting, red eyed zombies; and the smaller band of normal folk fighting for their lives.

It has obvious shades of The Omega Man, and the vacuous, uninhibited London wastelands owe much to A Clockwork Orange.

Also, the climax - where Jim and friends stumble on a fortress populated by a renegade band of army recruits striving to start again in their own version of utopia - echoes Apocalypse Now.

Yet Boyle still manages an inspiring originality. This is largely down to the camerawork. The DV format softens every shot, which instills a sense of calm that makes the jolting, extremely violent action sequences all the more intense and shocking.

The attacks by The Infected are sporadic, although their lythe 'superhuman' movement (Boyle employed athletes where possible to increase their animalistic qualities - and utilises speed photography, best seen in Saving Private Ryan, to increase the fear factor) ensures maximum impact.

Excellent character performances aside, it's the messages which stay in the mind. How fragile and easily violated humans are, and also the commentary on how rage (which we all experience in daily life) could easily be exacerbated and manifest itself into something far more evil than a row over parking spaces or shopping trolleys.

The bigger picture is perhaps most striking of all. The worst taste in the mouth is left by Jim's glimpse of a passenger plane passing overhead. As one character remarks: 'The rest of the World carries on as normal. They've quarantined us and left our stinking island to rot.'

Food for thought indeed.

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