28 Days Later
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
Many will assume that
It begins as scientists are performing cruel experiments on monkeys, forcing them to watch newsreel highlights of the atrocities that human beings visit upon each other. The tests lead to an outbreak of a virus appropriately named "Rage." Rage takes over its host organisms and reduces them to barbaric animalistic behavior. In short, it makes them murderous zombies.
When our hero, Jim (Cillian Murphy), wakes up in a London hospital, he discovers that the zombies have turned the city into a ghost town. He goes to a church for help, only to find the congregation slaughtered and bloodthirsty monsters lying in wait for him. He learns that attacks are not the only danger: contact with a mere drop of blood from the infected can render a man defenseless against the disease. Running for his life, Jim stumbles onto some survivors who teach him how to fight the heartless monsters. Together, they strike out to learn the truth behind the rumors of a military outpost that offers refuge for the uninfected. What they learn is hard to accept—that sin is inescapable and even if the zombies are kept at bay, evil will rise in the human heart and take on new forms.
Despite of its disturbing visions and fantastic premise, however, Boyle's film has critics examining it as a relevant tale for the era of SARS, AIDS, the West Nile Virus, and epidemics of civil unrest. Charles Mudede of the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger writes, "No book or painting could have captured the late '90s better than
The heroes in
The rapid spread of the disease seems troublingly plausible, and yet its symptoms suggest something more than a virus. The threat could be interpreted as an epidemic of urban paranoia and uncontrollable anger as well. The team of survivors becomes desperate, eager to wall themselves in against the threats of a violent populace. This could remind us of Africa, where millions are dying and in need of international aid, or it might sound like the L.A. riots.
Perhaps the most important lesson of the film is this: A response to evil that is merely rational and forceful, lacking love and compassion, will lead to whole new atrocities. The persistence of sacred music in the film's soundtrack suggests that we may have to look beyond military might and appeal to the powers of heaven.
Following hard on the heels of
>Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) calls it "a horrifically violent, apocalyptic treatment on rage and human survival in the face of destructive chaos." He concludes that it's "not for the squeamish or skittish," but it is meaningful. "What sets
Mike Furches (Hollywood Jesus) writes, "Many who will be critical of this movie for its style without ever understanding the intent of the director and writers. [This is] a well-thought-out supernatural thriller that calls into question the willingness of any of us to resort to evil actions or change the surroundings to bring about a better world around us."
Heather Mann (Relevant) says that the movie "asks things of an audience that few movies have done for 20 or 30 years. It is quiet and spare in the way that many 1970s sci-fi movies were. Instead of showcasing gratuitous gore and mind-numbing action, this movie has thinking characters who ask the audience to think."
Gareth Von Kallenbach (Phantom Tollbooth) calls the film "a very ambitious and unsettling work.
Tom Snyder (
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "Underneath the prolific bloodshed, the film … attempts to honestly, albeit heavy-handedly, raise philosophical questions about humanity's impulse toward aggression. Boyle, however, chooses to approach them from a secular, evolutionary stance, relying on the vernacular of biology and psychology, while refraining from religious concepts like original sin."
Elsewhere, mainstream critics are exploring the film's evocative themes and praising it as a surprisingly effective thriller.REVIEW
An epidemic of anger at the cineplex.by Jeffrey Overstreet
Books & Culture, September/October 2003