REVIEW: 28 Weeks Later [2007]

“Code Red”

This was definitely a film that I didn’t see any necessity for. 28 Days Later was a fantastic genre film whose main success was not really being the film people expected it to be. What worked there was that we were able to wake up into the world just as our main character did. We experience the disorientation and the horror right along with him, as well as the humanity still within him having missed the original outbreak—unlike the disheartened and beaten comrades he meets along the way. When we enter the quarantined world of England, now seven months past infection, we see a country trying to rebuild, all the infected dead of starvation. It is inevitable that there will be some way in which the virus is released again, or else we would have no movie. The real question is, then, will the film work when we already know what will happen? I wasn’t quite sure because we had exhausted the running for freedom motif with the first one, however, the filmmakers sure do surprise. What 28 Weeks Later may lack in originality and story depth, it more than makes up with suspense, emotion, and non-stop action.

The original film was new and different because it wasn’t about fighting the undead, but about surviving against mankind’s brutality. Its one flaw was that it got away from this a bit towards the end as Cillian Murphy went on a one man killing spree, yet it worked because he was killing men and not infected beings. I expected this film to be that ending for two hours, but instead, it actually stayed consistent with the running and surviving. Whereas the first needed that shift in order to get its storied point across, this one already had it as a backdrop. Our only story here is trying to get two kids, who may hold a cure to the virus, out of England in the midst of total extermination. Therefore, the story needs the chase, and the film delivers to its utmost.

Our opening scene, showing how Robert Carlyle loses his wife and stays alive to eventually reunite with his children sent away on a school trip, puts us right into the action. The jerky camera style remains, showing us the brutality without the graphic details. These people care for each other and there is as much fear on their faces as there is sorrow and helplessness in being unable to help. It is a great entry into a story that soon slows down a bit to catch us up with what has happened in the weeks since our last visit. Repopulation has begun and Carlyle’s children have finally been allowed back in. Their reunion is short-lived on the happiness factor with him explaining how their mother died, and soon the children set off into forbidden territory to find a photo of her before the youngest forgets her face. To everyone’s surprise, the children find their mother at the house, infected but not raging. The military take all back into District 1 and we soon have chaos back in action.

What occurs as a result of the re-infection of society is a mass extermination by the hands of the US army overseeing the reopening of England. They have failed and must cover their tracks so the virus can’t leave the island for mainland. Caught inside, though, are the two children, played effectively by Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, an army doctor, (a favorite of mine, Rose Byrne), trying to keep them alive because a cure might be inside their blood, and a sniper who could no longer handle killing innocents, (Jeremy Renner doing a great job). It is their race to keep alive that drives the final three quarters of the film and it never gets tiring. With the infected and the military on their tails, attempting to do them in, only Harold Perrineau’s pilot can get them off the island.

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo does an admirable job in keeping the same tone and aesthetic as his predecessor. I have to believe that Danny Boyle staying on as producer helped keep the two films as consistent as possible. 28 Weeks Later never falls back on jump out of your seat moments and never takes the easy way out. The utter destruction of England at the hands of those trying to salvage it is a sight to behold and the death count of characters that you would think were untouchable, is astounding. You cannot blink once because you really have no idea what may be coming, and the brilliant industrial score keeps tension high throughout. Unfortunately, though, the filmmakers didn’t quite trust their audience as they spell out what happens at the end in a short epilogue, possibly trying to segue into a third part. What could have been an ominous final shot of our young hero gets subverted by the unnecessary showing of what transpires as the survivors leave the island for France.

Rarely do sequels live up to their predecessors, especially those that probably never need to be made. Much like Aliens and Underworld: Evolution live up to their originals, by upping the action and suspense in a story without the depth needed for a part one, 28 Weeks Later holds its own with Days. To sum it all up, if you enjoyed Boyle’s vision of horror you will not be disappointed at how the story continues.

28 Weeks Later 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] The group walks through the abandoned streets of London. Left to right: Scarlet (Rose Byrne), Doyle (Jeremy Renner), Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), and Tammy (Imogen Poots).
[2] Don (Robert Carlyle) is chased by the infected.


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