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28 Weeks Later
cast: Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Rose Byrne, Imogen Poots, and Jeremy Renner

director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

99 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Danny Boyle left the follow-up to 28 Days Later in the hands of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo while he went off to make Sunshine. This gives us two reasons to wish that Boyle had concentrated on making 28 Weeks Later himself. Fresnadillo has not done a bad job of directing; stylistically it is very faithful to Boyle's original. The problem seems to lie with the writers and here Fresnadillo will have to hold his hand up, as he is partially responsible for the script. One of the main plot devices in the original concerned the 'rage' virus that turned most of the British population into angry zombies. So angry, in fact, that they forgot to eat and starved to death after about five weeks. This, of course, places certain demands on a follow-up. It would be possible to film a story that ran concurrent to the first one, but we would all know what the characters would have to do to survive. And it wouldn't fit the title. Therefore there has to be a way to reintroduce the rage virus, and breaking out another laboratory batch would be merely repetitive. Let's see how they did it.

During the initial outbreak, Donald and Alice Harris (Robert Carlyle and Catherine McCormack) are holed up in a farmhouse with a motley bunch of survivors (shades of Night Of The Living Dead), info-dumping for all they are worth about how, amongst other things, their children were abroad when the virus struck. Then the house is attacked and overrun by zombies. The thing about fast zombies is that they're like crossing a road and seeing a car speeding towards you; you don't have time to think. Carlyle, instead of attempting to rescue his wife, runs for it. He is the only one to get away. Did he make the right decision? Possibly. How it has affected him as a character is unfortunately not explored to any great depth.

We then jump forward six months. The Americans have arrived, leading once more to the question of what is more annoying: Brits with fake American accents or Americans with fake British accents? They are actually at the head of a multinational force, although we see no other nationalities, and they have set up a fortified base in the middle of London. It's strategically foolish, but the director doesn't have to worry about portraying a countryside that has gone wild over six months. We also get more of those eerie shots of an empty city that wowed us in the first film and that we all now know were done by filming at the crack of dawn. The geography of London itself seems somewhat fluid during the events of the film, but that's hardly a major drawback. Britons who were stranded abroad during the outbreak are now arriving back in the country and are living in the compound. This includes Harris' children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (the challengingly named Mackintosh Muggleton).

The kids break out of the compound to go to the family home to retrieve mementos and are shocked to find that their mother is there, almost crazy by now. All three are taken back to the compound where it is discovered that Alice is carrying rage but has a natural immunity. Naturally this then leads to a second outbreak of the disease. The Americans attempt to eradicate it by wiping out everyone in the compound but the kids escape with the help of a doctor (Rose Byrne) and an army sniper (Jeremy Renner). The doctor is convinced that the children hold the key to a cure and they attempt to get them to safety with the help of a friend of the sniper who seems to have unlimited use of an army helicopter.

If the supermarket sweep in 28 Days Later was a nod of the head to Romero's Dawn Of The Dead, then the first helicopter rescue attempt in 28 Weeks Later is an over-the-top use of another scene in the same film. You'll know the one that I'm talking about if you've seen Dawn Of The Dead. I'm the sort of person who likes to think that the ending of the first film is a subtle homage to The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue because I like subtle touches in zombie films. Cut-and-paste in any film just reeks of laziness. Then, after much confusion as a lot of the action takes place at night or underground, the film stumbles over a massive and totally unnecessary coincidence near to the conclusion. It's unfair to say more, but you will be annoyed by it. It's a very untidy film, but '28 Months Later' is set up and awaiting take-off.

Much has been made of the supposed Iraq analogy in 28 Weeks Later, but it doesn't really hold up. At every stage in this film the kill-'em-all proponents are proved right and it is the humanitarians who bring grief down upon the survivors. It's a bleak outlook for a bleak film, but hardly comparable to the tragic situation in the Middle East.

The DVD extras consist of trailers for The Hills Have Eyes, Sunshine, Prison Break: series 2, and Fantastic 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. Oh, yes - and an advert for Maltesers that some genius of an advertising executive thought would hit its demographic target in the audience for this film.

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