It seems that activism is on the rise in modern society, especially in western countries like the UK and America. We can’t walk to class without ten student groups telling us about the latest horror they have found in society that must be ended immediately such as abortion, circumcision, the use of apple products, or the testing of medical products on animals. These groups are, for the most part, non-violent, and content to effect legal change slowly through their messages. But what happens when we remove this aversion to violence and incremental, legal change?
The film 28 Days Later offers us a look at what these groups could manifest as in the opening scene where three ‘activists,’ two of whom are dressed in paramilitary clothing, break into an animal testing facility with the intention of freeing chimps, who’s treatment they profess to know nothing about. Throughout the entire scene, the chimps are shot solely through handheld, Dutch angles which give off the impression that the apes have taken on some kind of unnatural quality. The film also utilizes a jarringly silent ambient noise for the scene that attributes a darkly prophetic nature to the researcher’s warning against freeing the chimps. The amateur nature of the ‘activists’ is further reinforced by the gear (or lack thereof) that they chose to bring. Having brought neither weapons to subdue the facility’s staff, nor equipment to transport the chimps after releasing them, their choice to wear militaristic clothing gives off the message that their doing so was a fashion choice, not a functional one. They wish to be perceived as powerful, moral authorities, fighting for those who do not have the ability to fight for themselves, despite the fact that their naivety coupled with their willingness to break the law arguably brings about the decimation of the entire island of England.
Does the opening scene, and therefore the whole movie, subtly address the wave of ‘activists’ that become involved in movements before fully understanding the situation that they are attempting to influence?