A group of animal rights activists break into the heart of a restricted research facility. Their goal is to report the cruel treatment of animals to the world, and free the poor little monkeys. Unfortunately, as one hapless researcher warns them, the monkey's are infected with 'Rage'. In order to cure diseases, he proclaims - you must understand them. The virus is in their blood and saliva, and within minutes turns the target into an uncontrollable monster. The activists pay the terrified researched no mind, and release an animal. As one might expect, the situation quickly deteriorates after that.
Flash forward.... 28 days. Jim, a bicycle courier involved in an accident, wakes up in a deserted hospital. Exploring further, he doesn't find a single living soul, but comes across a newspaper screaming about a virus. Jim continues to wonder - ending up in front of a giant wall dedicated to the victims of the virus - and begins to realize that London is completely empty. Or is it? (no, it isn't). He soon links up with a pair of survivors, and together they they flee from the infected, looking for salvation.
The movie works wonders as a throwback to classics like 'The Omega Man', as the scenes of a completely deserted London really set the tone for the rest of the movie. The first half in particular is wonderful as we watch Jim come to terms with the reality of infection, and his desperate battle to survive. Although the second act is still strong and enjoyable, it falters a little bit. The movie seems to take a turn away from a quietly creepy horror movie to something that leans toward a vigilante action flick. Regardless, as a whole the movie manages to flow quite nicely, with some strong pacing.
The scientific details of the plot are only lightly explored here. Many questions concerning the virus are left unanswered. There's no specifics on it's details, or why the inhibitors used on the monkey's can't be used on people. In addition, there's not attempt made to explain why the infected would rather starve to death than eat each other. For people filled with 'Rage', they seem to get along just fine. As Boyle's intent was to craft a dark image of post-apocalyptic humanity as opposed to a scientific thriller, a small lapse such as this doesn't weight the movie down at all.
Boyle has done an incredible job of visually protraying the collapse of civilization. From the movie's chilling opening shots of a completely deserted London to a beautifully lit mansion in Manchester, every frame has been meticulously planned. The cuts are quick and fast, and coupled with the unusual camera angles, build a rich and suspenseful atmosphere. The entire movie is dripping with tension, and the excellent cinematography brings it screaming into vivid reality.
The acting on part of the main characters is really very well done. Cillian Murphy in particular does an excellent job with 'Jim', handling his transition form a naive young man to a battle-hardened survivor. Harris performs admirably as his female counterpart, and there's one or two other good performances. There's some pretty classic stereotypes later in the film, and they're not really helped by some lacklustre acting. Thankfully, the movie's shot mainly at night by this point, so it's pretty hard to see them.
The DVD audio/video transfer is what you'd expect form a respectable movie these days. There's no major issues here, just a pretty professional package. The extra's are the real selling point on this DVD. Unlike other films, 28 Days later gives you some alternate endings which are radically different from that of the original cut. The first two are very similar in terms of plot development, there's only a question of timing. This solves the 'happy ending' concerns quite nicely, and casts the film in a darker and perhaps more enjoyable light. The third and most interesting ending is presented mainly in a narrated storyboard form, as it drastically changes the second half of the film. This is quite a treat, as the viewer is given a chance to see where the movie might have gone.
Aside from that, the disc has the requisite deleted scenes (don't bother), the theatrical trailers, a music video, and a thoroughly enjoyable 'making of' piece, which runs about half and hour. In addition, Boyle and writer Alex Garland provide a commentary for the main feature. It's very insightful, and helps the viewer gain a new measure of understanding for the film as a whole. It's sure to delight fans of the movie.