28 Days Later: An Analysis

28 Days Later is more than an update on the zombie horror flick. Several contemporary ideas are explored including the role of Christianity, hedonism of Western civilization, and the increase of violence in our daily media. The brilliance of Danny Boyle is the duality of the picture. On one hand it is an entertaining thriller while on a deeper level psychological concepts like Carl Jung’s Shadow are used, to highlight the inhumanity of man. Many questions can be asked like; what does the Rage virus represent in today’s society? And why is Selena’s (Naomie Harris) characterso focused on survival? These and several other questions along with a basic plot synopsis will be explored in this analysis.

Early on in “28 Days Later” with the early introduction of violence through the use of news clips, it becomes clear that this will not be a smooth ride nor a regular commercial movie and that violence or aggression will be a theme, during this movie. In fact, violence with aggression are symbolized in the “Rage” (28 Days Later) virus and in fact Danny Boyle specifically wanted to point out that the Rage virus was a representation of today’s increasing incidences of road rage, air rage etc. But why is our society experiencing more incidences of rage? The change of our culture from a spiritual society to a more consuming society is leaving many feeling trapped in certain societal roles, this leads to frustration. There are several scenes in the movie where symbols or situations are used to express these feelings of frustration. For instance it’s more than a coincidence that during a tower block scene several fish in a tank gasp for oxygen, as the water in their tank decreases. Also, in the first few minutes of the film a monkey is strapped to a chair and forced to watch multiply scenes of violence or aggression. This scene leads into another where Jim (Cillian Murphy) is tied in with intravenous tubes and has a scar, exactly where the previous monkey had his electrodes tied in. Danny Boyle is alluding to the fact that both man and monkey in this movie are being exposed to vast amounts of violence through everyday media and it is harmful.

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Another recurring theme in “28 Days Later” is the role of Christianity in western society and how spirituality plays a part in our present day lives. Danny Boyle uses religious symbolism throughout “28 Days Later” in the form of crosses, religious text and with a priest to relay his spiritual message. In fact Jim’s first encounter is with an infected priest, who swats at the air as if possessed. So, what is Danny Boyle saying about spirituality? Simply that western society has become so influenced by consumerism and acquiring material goods that we are all bound, for a loud wake up call. There is a reference to the book of Revelations with the phrase, “The End is Extremely fucking nigh,” written upon the walls of an inner city church. This points out that humanity is at an end, it is time for man to repent or be swallowed the Rage virus. As well, Jim notices a postcard that reads, “It will be your grave for you are vile. -Nahum 1:14.” This is a verse from the bible that predicted the destruction of the city of Nineveh (Internet Movie Database) because the inhabitants were wicked. Later in the movie the city of Manchester is seen burning like the city of Nineveh, a direct correlation to Boyle’s earlier message that we must change our greedy ways. The use of horses in an abbey scene and songs such as “Ave Maria” allude to a spirituality without convention and one that is more in tune with nature. Even an over flying plane becomes an angelic beacon of hope for Jim late in the movie.

During “28 Days Later” the concept of survival and whether an individual’s right for survival overrides the survival of a group comes up periodically in the film.

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Selena (Naomie Harris) who believes in her own individual survival sums up her position nicely when she says to Jim “Plans are pointless. Staying alive is as good as it gets.” (Wikiquote) Later, she tells Jim “I would leave you behind in a heartbeat (If he became infected)” (28 Days Later).

While Jim is the antithesis or opposite of Selena in that he believes that the survival of the group, is all that matters. When Jim meets Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns), a small family living in an abandoned tower block, he says that he won’t leave them behind (28 Days Later).

Selena replies “They’re desperate and probably need us more than we need them” (28 Days Later).

It is an interesting character development in that Selena softens her position halfway into the movie and her survivalist beliefs are slowly eased, by Jim’s opposing view. Danny Boyle uses this theme of group versus individual survival in several of his other movies, including “The Beach,” “Sunshine” and “Trainspotting.” In “28 Days Later” the theme of an individual’s right for survival versus the group’s right adds complexity, to both the characters and story.

Danny Boyle uses symbolism to represent a transition in the later half of the movie and changes the tempo deliberately to prepare for the climax. Jim and his surrogate family reach the outskirts of Manchester where a blockade has been abandoned, to the infected. It is here that a crow, symbolizing death, infects Frank and leads to his execution at the hands of a soldier. There is another allusion to our consuming culture with the appearance of Major West (Christopher Eccleston), the name is more than mere chance. Major West has amassed a hoard of electronic goods, while being highly corrupted. Also, there is lightning that symbolizes an impending conflict between Jim and Major West. While later, Hannah and Selena are dressed in red gowns and the colour red acts as foreshadowing, for the blood that is about to flow. Although many have complained of the change of pace during the last act of the movie; this occurs either due to budgetary concerns or intentionally, to reinforce earlier themes of western decadence and a return to spirituality.

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In the end Jim comes to terms with a Jungian concept the Shadow while the infection spreads. But why the need for the Shadow? The Shadow is the dark side in each of us that must be integrated, in order to bring wholeness to each individual. By harnessing his own inner brutally Jim is able to take revenge upon several soldiers who were attempting to rape Hannah and Selena. This is definitely not a kid’s movie and the last few scenes will leave most a little squeamish. While the ending is quite bloody the viewer is left with the possibility of hope.

“28 Days Later” amps up the traditional zombie horror flick while adding several sophisticated elements, that make this movie enjoyable on several levels. Is the ending left open for a sequel? Yes, but the movie is a complete story. From beginning to end this movie is a thrill ride and an instant modern day classic.

Works Cited

28 Days Later. 2002. 30 July 2008 .

28 Days Later. 30 July 2008 .

Boyle, Danny. “28 Days Later.” DVD-ROM. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation,


Grover, Ronald. Things That Go Bump at the Box Office. Ed. Patricia O’Connell. 30

July 2008 _7624db011.htm>.

Mitchell, Wendy. Indiiewire. 30 July 2008 .