28 Days Later (2002) Summary And Alternate Endings (spoiler)

Late one night, British animal rights activists break into the Cambridge Primate Research Facility to free chimpanzees being used for medical research. The local scientist warns the activists that the chimps are infected with something he only calls "Rage", but the activists disregard him and set a chimp free. It immediately attacks and infects the activists and scientist.

Twenty-eight days later, a bicycle courier named Jim awakens from a coma in the deserted St Thomas' Hospital. As he leaves the hospital, he discovers London is completely deserted and rife with signs of catastrophe. Jim is soon discovered and chased through the streets by infected people before being rescued by two survivors, Selena and Mark, who rush him to their hideout at the Canary Wharf Station in the London Underground. They reveal that while Jim was comatose, the virus spread uncontrollably among the populace, turning most people into mindless, vicious killers ("the Infected") and resulting in societal collapse, possibly worldwide.

Selena and Mark accompany Jim to his parents' house, where he discovers that they committed suicide. That night, two of the Infected attack the survivors, and when the fight ends they discover that Mark is bleeding and is likely infected. Selena immediately kills him with a machete, explaining to Jim that the infection is spread through the blood and overwhelms its victims in seconds, rendering them deadly to others. She warns that should he become infected, she will kill him "in a heartbeat". As the two journey through the derelict city the next day, Selena rules out intimacy between her and Jim, declaring that only the fight for survival remains. They discover two more survivors, Frank and his teenage daughter Hannah, holed up in an abandoned block of flats. Invited to spend the night, Selena and Jim privately debate whether they should remain with Frank and Hannah. Jim says they seem like good people, while Selena fears they will slow her down, warning Jim that putting others ahead of one's own personal survival is a sure way to get killed.

The next morning, Frank informs Jim and Selena that supplies, particularly water, are dwindling, and plays them a prerecorded radio broadcast loop transmitted by soldiers near Manchester who claim to have "the answer to infection". The survivors board Frank's cab in search of the blockade and during the trip bond with one another. Selena's steely resolve begins to soften, while Jim's experiences on the trip begin to toughen him up. When the four reach the deserted blockade, Frank is infected by blood dripping from a bird on a light post above him, which drips into his eye, and is shot dead by hidden soldiers, who then commandeer the cab and take Selena, Jim and Hannah to a fortified mansion under the command of Major Henry West. As Hannah grieves, Selena and Jim reach out to each other romantically. Jim discovers that West's "answer to infection" involves waiting for the Infected to starve to death, while giving hope for community survival by forcing sexual servitude on the female survivors. Jim attempts to escape with Selena and Hannah, but is captured by the soldiers, along with Sergeant Farrell, who disagrees with the Major's plan. While Jim and Farrell are imprisoned for the night, Farrell informs Jim that there is no worldwide epidemic, but rather that the island of Great Britain has been quarantined.

The next day, as two soldiers lead the prisoners into the woods to be executed, Selena and Hannah are trapped as the soldiers circle, set to rape them both. While the two executioners fight about whether to kill the prisoners by stabbing or (more humanely) shooting, Jim escapes over a wall. Later, Jim observes the trail of a jet aircraft flying high overhead and realizes that someone in the outside world is still functioning. After luring West and one of his men to the blockade, Jim runs back to the soldiers' headquarters where he unleashes Mailer, an infected soldier that West kept chained outside for observation. Mailer attacks the soldiers in the mansion, while Jim sneaks around, killing a soldier and manoeuvring around the growing number of Infected. Selena, held hostage by the last uninfected soldier, the cruel Corporal Mitchell, is horrified when Jim, covered in blood, bursts into the room and savagely kills the soldier, leading her to believe that he may be infected. Raising her machete, she hesitates before striking; he quips, "That was longer than a heartbeat," and the two kiss passionately. Hannah finds them and mistakenly thinks that Jim is one of the infected, striking him over the head with a vase. After realizing her mistake, the trio run to Frank's cab, only to encounter West, who shoots Jim in the stomach. Hannah commandeers the cab, backs it up to the front door, delivering West to the infected Mailer. She then drives away with Jim and Selena.

Selena and Hannah rush Jim into a deserted hospital, where Selena performs life-saving emergency procedures. Twenty-eight days later, Jim is shown waking up in recovery again, this time on one side of a double bed in a remote cottage. Downstairs, he finds Selena sewing large swaths of fabric when Hannah appears. The three rush outside and unfurl a huge cloth banner, adding the final letter to the word "HELLO" laid out on the meadow. As a military jet flies over the landscape, the Infected are shown lying by the road, dying of starvation. After the jet zooms past the three waving survivors and their distress sign, Selena wonders rhetorically, "Do you think they saw us this time?"

Alternative endings
The DVD extras include three alternative endings, all of which end with Jim dying. Two were filmed, while the third, a more radical departure, was only storyboarded. On 25 July 2003, cinemas started showing the alternate ending at the end of the film.

Jim dies at the hospital
In this ending, after Jim is shot, Selena and Hannah still rush him to the deserted hospital, but the scene is extended. Selena, with Hannah's assistance, attempts to perform life-saving procedures but cannot revive Jim. Selena is heartbroken, and Hannah, distraught, looks to her for guidance. Selena tells Hannah that they will go on; they pick up their guns and walk away from Jim's lifeless body. Selena and Hannah, fully armed, walk through the operating room doors, which gradually stop swinging.

On the DVD commentary, Boyle and Garland explain that this was the original ending of the film's first cut, which was tested with preview audiences. It was rejected for seeming too bleak; the final exit from the hospital was intended to imply Selena and Hannah's survival, whereas test audiences felt that the women were marching off to certain death. Boyle and Garland express a preference for this alternate ending, calling it the "true ending". They comment that this ending brought Jim full circle, as he starts and finishes the story in bed in a deserted hospital.

This ending was added in the theatrical release of the film beginning on 25 July 2003, placed after the credits and prefaced with the words "what if…"

Rescue coda without Jim
This ending, for which only a rough edit was completed, is an alternate version of the potential rescue sequence shown at the very end of the released film. Here, the scenes are identical, except that this ending was intended to be placed after the first alternative ending where Jim dies, so he is absent. When Selena is sewing one of the banner letters in the cottage, she is seen facetiously talking to a chicken instead of Jim. Only Selena and Hannah are seen waving to the jet flying overhead in the final shots.

"Radical Alternative Ending"
The "Radical Alternative Ending" was not filmed and is presented on the DVD as a series of illustrated storyboards with voiceovers by Boyle and Garland. This ending would have taken the story in a radically different direction from the film's midpoint. When Frank is infected at the military blockade near Manchester, the soldiers do not enter the story. Instead, Jim, Selena and Hannah are somehow able to restrain the infected Frank, hoping they will find a cure for the virus nearby as suggested in the radio broadcast. They soon discover that the blockade had protected a large medical research complex, the same one featured in the first scene of the film where the virus was developed.

Inside, the party is relieved to find a scientist self-barricaded inside a room with food and water. He won't open the door because he fears they will take his food, although he does admit that the "answer to infection is here." Unfortunately, he refuses to talk further because he does not want to make an emotional attachment to people who will soon be dead. After hours of failed attempts to break through the door or coax the man out, Jim eventually brings Hannah to the door and explains Frank's situation. The scientist reluctantly tells them that Frank can only be cured with a complete blood transfusion, and supplies them with the necessary equipment. After learning that he is the only match with Frank's blood type, Jim nobly sacrifices himself so that Frank can survive with his daughter. Just as his journey began, Jim is left alone in the abandoned medical facility, and Selena, Hannah and Frank move into the room with the scientist as a horde of the infected breach the complex. Strapped to the same table as the chimp had been in the opening scene, the computer monitors showing death and destruction come to life around a thrashing, infected Jim.

Garland and Boyle explain that they conceived this ending to see what the film would be like if they did not expand the focus beyond the core four survivors. They decided against it because the idea of a total blood replacement as a cure was not credible. As Boyle said in the DVD commentary, it "didn't make much sense" since the film had already established that one drop of blood can infect a person. "What would we do? Drain him of blood and scrub his veins with bleach?"

"Hospital Dream"
The "Hospital Dream" ending is an extended version of the theatrical alternate ending where Jim dies at the hospital. It is revealed by the director during the optional commentary that this was the full version of the original ending. Jim dreams while unconscious and remembers the final moments on his bicycle before the crash. The footage cuts back and forth between the scene with Selene and Hannah trying to save his life and the dream sequence. As he gets hit by a car in his flashback, he simultaneously dies on the operating table. This ending was not seen until the movie's release on Blu-ray.


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