The story begins in a research centre. Three animal rights activists break into it and sets one chimpanzee free even though one scientist warns them that the chimpanzees are infected with rage (which is contagious through blood and saliva). At this moment, the animal jumps out of his "cage" and bites an activist. As a result of this, the activist gets infected and is sent into demented bloodlust. Twenty-eight days later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma in a hospital of London and finds the city deserted of all human life.
After a fatal encounter with zombies, Jim is saved by Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Naomie Harris) who tells him that most of the British population got infected by the virus. Afterwards, the team joins other survivors, Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns). Obviously, the team looks for some radio signals and find out that in order to help themselves, they can join a group of soldiers (located near Manchester) who promised, in their radio message, refuge and "salvation" from infected people.
First of all, for an independent film, 28 Days Later is surprisingly spectacular. Obviously, what would a horror film be without its attempt to put characters in scary situations? However, rest assured, these confrontations between human beings and zombies (who are extremely well played by the unknown actors) are efficiently at the service of the plot. As a result of that, 28 Days Later is one of the few horror flicks that avoids being formulaic. Indeed, while some directors would place the emphasis on visual gruesomeness, Boyle, on the other hand, decided to focus on people's fear and their reaction in the light of an extreme situation.
What made this film so particular, in its own way, is the obvious insertion of a social commentary by Boyle. At the beginning of the film, one is surprised to see how unrelated people are willing to help each other since they're looking to survive and not being infected by the zombies. Therefore, one might think that the movie shows us that we, Westerners, would give up our individualism for solidarity's sake. However, the film takes a good plot twists by taking an unpredictable turn: are all human beings willing to sacrifice their individual interests in the name of survival? Apparently not...
Finally, the movie does use some clichés of zombie films when you look at its visual aspect. However, 28 Days Later is one of the few horror films that is well served by the cast, from the speaking members to those who play zombies. Of course, 28 Days Later is not the most entertaining horror film one would see, but it's definitely one that honours the horror genre (a genre that needed some fresh air).
Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston and Noah Huntley