Fox // 2007 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // October 2nd, 2007
When days turn to weeks...the horror returns.
While 28 Weeks Later has a different director, a stronger political undertone, and a more action-oriented plot, it isn't quite as surprising or satisfying as the original...except for a satisfying ending. It is a surprisingly good sequel to the groundbreaking zombie movie 28 Days Later. But I don't want to give anything anyway.
Meet Don. He's a simple country living bloke who's holed up in a cabin with his wife and some other refugees. They're just trying to live a normal life, and not get eaten by zombies. Unfortunately for them, they can't hide in the middle of a farm forever, and their home is destroyed in a matter of minutes thanks to the bloodthirsty "infected." Don abandons everyone, including his wife, and saves himself.
Six months later, after the Rage Virus runs amok in the streets of jolly London, the infected begin to die off. This, of course, prompts everyone to move back home and start over. A "Green Zone" is effectively created within the city, and U.S.-led NATO forces run the place while they begin rebuilding this ransacked society.
Meet Don's kids. They were stuck in a quarantine camp, but now they're the first children to be admitted into the new, zombie-free, London. They're frightened, alone, and trying their best to reconnect with their father (who explains to them that their mother is dead). For fear of forgetting their mother forever, the kids disobey the rules, sneak back into the unprotected neighborhoods of London, and try to get some stuff from their old house. Aren't they surprised when they discover their mother is still alive!
Their discovery allows the mother, who is a carrier, to transmit the Rage Virus back into the quarantined zone...and all hell breaks loose. Now, the kids, along with some defected troops and other various blokes, are running for their lives from hordes of angry zombies and reckless soldiers ordered to kill on sight. Cue lots of yelling.
As I see it, the "zombie movie" subgenre is evolving in two directions. There is the "zombies are getting smarter" direction (a la Land of the Dead), and the "zombies are getting faster" direction. I'd say 28 Weeks Later definitely belongs in the latter group. It's a frantic, visceral film that stays within the expectations of the subgenre while filling itself with gritty style and loads of action.
There's a rather intriguing premise to 28 Weeks Later: American-led NATO forces rebuilding London after the Rage Virus has died off. Of course, the entire thing is a thinly veiled allusion to the war in Iraq. While I thought that the political messages in the film were a little heavy-handed, it's becoming clear (if it wasn't already) that the zombie film is the premier subgenre for political commentary; George A. Romero has basically mastered this concept. The story of 28 Weeks Later is excellent, if a bit standard, and certainly a better premise than some of the original ideas for a 28 Days Later sequel.
What irked me about the movie was the fact that two kids were able to bring down the entire setup -- and all because they wanted a picture of their mum. I'm sorry but if I was the first kid to re-enter a contaminated zombie zone, I would not be jumping at the idea of venturing out into unguarded territory to have a lark; I would probably be hiding under my bed crying like I just won an Oscar for Best Actress. Their antics cause all hell to break loose, and then the movie becomes like every other zombie movie: a fight for survival. Here, a motley mix of soldiers, children, and expendable extras escape London, narrowly miss a firebombing, sneak through a gas attack, and outrun hordes of Rage-filled crazies in a field. Each one of these exciting events could have been completed with moderate success by even the most novice of film school students (I assume). Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes the road less traveled, filling each frame with shaky cams, gritty overlays, and jump cuts. He doesn't just ride the coattails of Danny Boyle, the first film's director, he adapts the previous film's style into his own unique vision. The movie has a very textured, layered look about it, and is very well-directed and well-filmed.
Fresnadillo is helped by a strong, if uneven, cast, led by "world's best zombie dad" Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty). Carlyle does an excellent job of showing emotion with every twitch of the face, and really delivers the goods in that scene where he lies to his children about their mother's death. He pulls off being both loving and deceitful, frightened and courageous. His acting range tends to drop off a bit once he becomes a zombie, but that's a given. The other major player in the film is soldier-turned-savior Sgt. Doyle (Jeremy Renner, Lords of Dogtown). Renner plays a soldier who's in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is forced to choose between gunning down civilians and abandoning his post. His manly soldier attitude plays well against Major Scarlett (Rose Byrne, Troy). The rest of the cast is fairly strong, and the kid actors are only slightly cheesy (they could have been a lot worse). The issue I had with the children, Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, aside from their outrageous names, is that I never really cared about their need to reconnect with their family. I also never really felt the weight of their need to be protected, like I did with Joy, the pregnant woman in Children of Men.
As visually intense and emotionally jarring as this film is, it ultimately doesn't surpass the original. The original 28 Days Later was so fresh at the time it was released, and really contributed to the resurrection (if you'll excuse the pun) of the zombie movie in Hollywood. It had that realistic, digital feel to it and a completely surprising third act, whereas 28 Weeks Later felt ultimately linear and somewhat predictable after things started moving. That's not to say that this movie is bad by any means; it certainly delivers in terms of action and scares, but it just isn't as groundbreaking as the original.
This DVD transfer is exceedingly effective in the audio/video department; it captures the film wonderfully, and from what I can tell any grain or imperfections in the film's video are purely intentional. All of that grit and blood really splatters across the screen quite clearly. The Dolby Surround comes in very nice, as well. The movie retains the iconic John Murphy score from the first film, and the sound effects are all very engrossing (as well as just plain gross).
This DVD release comes with a smattering of traditional special features all of which are fairly well-produced. There are a handful of deleted scenes which come with a commentary track explaining why they were deleted. There's also a standard making-of featurette called "Code Red," which does a good job of explaining the development of the project, and the original plot ideas for the sequel. Two other, shorter featurettes cover the training extras endured to become "infected" and how all the actors had to run the entire movie. These featurettes are all pretty standard and, while intriguing, aren't anything to write home about. There's also a fairly thorough and entertaining director's commentary by Fresnadillo and screenwriter Enrique Lavigne. These guys really know what they're talking about when it comes to filmmaking, especially in the horror genre.
What is worth writing home about, however, are the two other featurettes hidden away on the second page of the special features menu. The disc includes two "Aftermath" Flash cartoons, which use panels from the 28 Days Later comic book to tell brief little stories as prologues and epilogues to the movie. The first cartoon shows the audience how the Rage Virus was first concocted. The second cartoon takes an Omega Man approach, featuring a lone soldier remaining in London trying to survive on his own. Both of these cartoons are really unique and very well-produced. They largely consist of still panels with Flash and After Effects animation on top; this is sort of what I imagine Ken Burns would produce if he took acid.
Overall, this is a tight package in terms of special features. For me, the saving grace was those Aftermath cartoons. They were a nice change of pace when compared with the usual behind-the-scenes stuff.
While some critics were hailing 28 Weeks Later as better than the original, I look at it as a worthy sequel that merely adds on to the mythos of the original, without breaking any new ground. It's got solid direction, a good cast, and a strong soundtrack -- and it has its fair share of scares. Unfortunately the story is predictable and the scenes with the kids just don't seem to carry much weight.
Guilty of being a surprisingly adequate follow-up to a fantastic zombie movie.
Review content copyright © 2007 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Co-Writer Enrique Lopez Lavigne
* "Code Red: Making Of 28 Weeks Later" Featurette
* "The Infected" Featurette
* "Getting Into The Action" Featurette
* "The Aftermath: Development"
* "The Aftermath: Decimation"
* Deleted Scenes
* Theater Trailer
* Official Site