Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.
Considering that 28 Days Later was such a low budget movie, the ambition is apparent from the beginning. Those first scenes when Cillian Murphy’s Jim emerges from the hospital, dazed and confused, work fantastically and very little of it is to do with his performance. Danny Boyle set his precedent for ambitious director early with the creepy scenes which set-up the situation around the country.
Greatest Scene Number 33: 28 Days Later – Deserted London
You can check out the trivia details on IMDB for how it was done but regardless of the logistics around it, filming a London completely deserted and void of people is impressive. The idea is creepy enough but Danny Boyle pulls it off so effectively. The fact that he manages to do it around some of the key landmarks in the English capital is even more impressive.
This of course starts with Cillian Murphy looking bewildered on the bridge leading to the Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben standing proud but eerily in the background. In fact, Murphy doesn’t have to do very much at all in these scenes than walk the deserted streets. This isn’t about his character but more about what a deserted London actually means.
The landmark locations continue, taking in a brief glimpse of Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and an effective pan-shot which shows how still the city is as St Paul’s Cathedral passes along the screen. A scene with very little dialogue which manages to explain the situation that has occurred in 28 days perfectly.
Boyle layers the effect even more. It is subtle but having rubbish line the streets, showing that nobody has been around to care for the city. Also having Murphy pick up loose money which has fallen from a bag. The audience are aware that the currency will have no value but it is a quick and simple way to show his character’s naivety and ignorance to the situation.
There are also less subtle cues to the previous, off-screen chaos. A London bus, so iconic a staple of British culture, lies on it’s side, discarded and out of place. Murphy just walks past it as Boyle uses one of his many varied camera shots to take in the vast emptiness of the streets.
Overall, the titular 28 days are summed up perfectly in just a minute and half when Cillian Murphy walks the deserted London streets. It may not seem particularly complicated but the message and story this tells, with little dialogue, is impressive. The other impressive element is of course the actual logistics of being able to shut down one of the busiest cities in the world.