Date First Watched: Long time ago
Date Last Watched: 27/03/2008
# Viewings: 5+
Having seen this film so many times before and knowing it very well, I decided to pay closer attention to the actual structure and technical aspects this time and found that I appreciated the film even more so than before.
Although it’s the cool thing to hate zombie movies these days (and yes, I know Boyle doesn’t consider this a zombie movie but it still functions like one so get over it), I love zombie movies and I will never not like zombie movies. Unfortunately, many don’t really get what zombie movies are really about at the core and completely fail. But when they get it right, it’s perfection. This is one such case.
The use of muted colours and filming with DV cameras both enhances the ‘real’ and gritty feel and prevent it feeling cinematic, but it also sometimes takes you out of the film (much like the rules of Dogme 95). I paid more attention to the use of colour, something I’d not really paid attention to previously; the muted colours give the post-apocalyptic London a washed out, dead feel and vibrant colour is added in a few scenes to enhance the life in those scenes (the rooftop scene with the buckets, the shopping center, the end). I found the use of product placement also quite effective because in context it really drives home that the every day products you take for granted are now what are depended on for survival.
Most of the acting is good, but the two female leads are awful. Which has always annoyed me, but it sticks out like a sore thumb every time (especially the girl playing Hannah). One thing I noticed this time was that the only nudity in the film is male nudity, which I think helps make the later scenes with the women more effective because they haven’t been used or shown as objects of sexual desire and it makes those scenes much more uncomfortable than if they’d been used to sexy up the film. The female characters themselves are quite interesting, but the actors playing them prevent them really becoming special. The dialogue is also quite wooden, stilted and cheesy at times (especially some of the short monologues, like Selena informing Jim about the infection). I found that beginning the film with Jim waking up in the hospital also made it less jarring that we never actually know much about any of the character’s past lives. I usually love character development and such in zombie-type films, but this is less about the characters and humanity as a whole. The fact that there are no real larger than life characters means they all feel like regular, real people. You don’t get distracted having Brendon Gleeson and Cillian Murphy and Christopher Eccleston in the film because you don’t see the actors there, just the characters [the non-cinematic feel also helps this feeling].
I always remember the film being very ‘shaky’ and erratic, but I didn’t notice that at all this time. There were a few moments of erratic editing, but it often takes its time and is quite slow in parts. I was particularly affected by the scene in the tunnel when they’re fixing the tyre. The camera just sits there, still, calmly waiting as the infected run towards them. The characters can’t move and are stuck there while they get the tyre on and we also are just sitting there with the camera, watching and waiting.
I also looked more closely at the actual infected and the way the rage virus worked; what differentiates it from a typical zombie movie is that the rage virus isn’t making them mindless, it’s just literally making them rage-filled. The infected stop running after the car when they realise they can’t catch up, Boiler tries to trick Jim, when Jim shoots Boiler’s chain he knows instantly he’s free. There’s still something human about them – later driven home when Jim goes psycho on the army dudes and Selena hesitates. I think this particular aspect was done better in say, The Signal (not the crappy 2014 sci-fi watered down version of The Thirteenth Floor), which focuses on how a kind of ‘rage’ virus works on a particular person’s personality, but hints of it are here as well.
A couple scenes have always stood out to me whenever I think of the film; Frank getting the blood in his eye (a great scene) and Hannah hiding behind the mirror, Jim sticking his fingers in that dude’s eyes. Not sure why those have the biggest lasting effect on me, but they do.
Although the film does have some flaws, it’s just such a wonderfully crafted and effective film that it definitely deserves to be upped from a 9/10 to a 10/10.