Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2003 4:40 pm 
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
Posts: 3892
Location: California/NYC
. . .is a tad less terrific than it’s being cracked up to be.

In 28 Days Later. . . Danny Boyle and Alex Garland “team up” again, as it were, as they did in effect when Boyle made a movie out of Garland’s popular book, The Beach. This new lower budget grainy digital video effort seems to have fared a very great deal better with the critics than the high budget Leo Di Caprio version of The Beach. Is it better? I don’t really think so. I had fun watching it, but considering the way it collapses into incoherence two thirds of the way through I find its almost universal acclaim – and the sheer amount of critical interest lavished on it in the press -- somewhat hard to fathom. Boyle hasn’t yet gotten back to the knack he had in Trainspotting and Shallow Grave for making young grunge hip and suspenseful and edgy. His doomsday trip can’t match what is in many ways its model, George Romero’s ghoul flicks, especially the imperishable low-budget original, Night of the Living Dead. He took the chance of working in a low budget and without stars, but ultimately he doesn’t take the chance of being really gross and transgressive.

I think people were so very hard on The Beach because pretty-puss Leo was in it and it was so glossy and beautiful, as well as a bit pretentious in its extravagant promises of excitement and mind games. It looked like Boyle had turned slick. Had he? Garland wrote his book with the skin of his teeth and just got lucky. And actually the movie recaptured most of the more vivid moments of the book really well and the locations were as exotic and beautiful as you could have possibly wanted. Di Caprio and the others did an excellent job. But people would have none of it.

28 Days Later is as lucky as The Beach was unlucky. Coming in the midst of a host of overblown and costly American summer blockbusters, it somehow graces the Cineplex and provides unexpected delight because of its modest means and the offbeat punch it manages to pack. But let’s not forget that the same Garland/Boyle team is at work on it, only this time there is no book to be loyal to. And that’s where the trouble comes in. The movie starts off with a series of dazzling traumatic set pieces -- as any apocalyptic flick has to and would. There’s the animal rights activists’ misguided invasion of a lab where they release a bunch of primates infected with the disease of rage. They go out and bite humans and before you know it London is empty. (Somehow end-of-the-world movies usually restrict their devastation to the place where they were made.) This is one of these clever devices low budget sci-fi filmmakers resort to: all they had to do was shoot so early in the morning that nobody was out. There’s the freshness of the newborn in the awakening of "naked everyman" Jim (Cillian Murphy) in a hospital to walk out to a city more populated with half-consumed soft drink cans than with people. The first thirty minutes are hard to forget because they have that freshness of seeing a world through startled young eyes in an atmosphere of total adrenaline rush. The people who appear to Jim and help him are vivid because they seem the only people in the world.

There are a lot of movies as good as this one that nobody remembers and few have seen. 28 Days has gained admiration with a general audience little acquainted with the pulp sci-fi genre just as Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did three years ago with people who didn’t know that lots of Chinese language martial arts flicks were just as good.

I would feel like a bad sport saying this, because 28 Days Later. . . is good fun and toward the end has some beautiful grainy expressionistic images, except that it completely stops making sense once the hero gets to the military camp where he’s been promised they will be saved and instead all sorts of confused nastiness is happening.

We don’t get a lot of views of the “Infected,” and when they do appear it’s quick like the battles in Gladiator so we can’t really see what’s happening. This is one way of bypassing budget restrictions but not, perhaps, the most satisfying one. If you think back to Night of the Living Dead it was way, way scarier. You saw those ghouls coming, and coming, and coming. And right up to the last terrible irony, it all made grim good sense.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 13 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group