Smart sequel raises body count, and interesting questions
When "28 Days Later" hit theaters in 2002, the popular joke was that the film must be the sequel to the abysmal Sandra Bullock rehab dramedy of two years prior, "28 Days." But when the lights went down and director Danny Boyle's post-apocalyptic zombie flick rolled, the jokes promptly ceased.
As with its predecessor, there is absolutely nothing to laugh about in "28 Weeks Later." As in the first film, mankind's obvious enemy is a simian-borne virus that infects humans instantly and irreparably, causing them to turn into flesh-eating monsters that move like Olympic sprinters. While the first installment dealt with the utter devastation of mainland Britain -- most of which is overrun by the infected as a few survivors cling desperately to hope -- "Weeks" explores what happens when reconstruction begins on unstable ground.
At the outset of the movie, a father of two ( Robert Carlyle ), in a moment of pure weakness, leaves his wife behind in an abandoned farmhouse to fend for herself against an onslaught of raging evil. After a tearful reunion in a slowly repopulating London, his two children (Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots ) sneak into still-unsecured parts of the city in an attempt to learn the truth about their ravished home and family. Can the two minors survive in a viral wasteland nature never intended? Is there any hope for humanity when the contaminated and their panic-stricken prey are trapped on an island together?
Boyle and his original writing partner, Alex Garland (who serve as executive producers of the new film), recruited a crack writing and directing team for "Weeks." Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo ("Intacto" ) re-creates the gritty and spastic look of "Days" while brilliantly utilizing dark space and shadow to enhance the terror. Monsters lurk around every corner, and most of the action is shrouded in the most frightful kind of urban pitch-black. While a nausea-inducing shakycam detracts from some of the quieter, more serious moments, it makes the lightning speed with which the hunters and hunted move seem that much more extreme.
The script is biting and timely, as nameless mobs of infected and healthy citizens are treated to indiscriminate sniper fire from the US military, which has been called in to restore order to the gutted nation. When things get out of hand -- and boy, do they! -- military leaders are at as much of a loss as the people they are sworn to protect. A subtle but unmistakable comment on the presence of Western troops in Middle Eastern nations, the governmental forces in the movie aren't depicted as malicious so much as they are scared and desperate.
As the chaos increases, dizzying questions echo off the walls of a decimated London: How can a threat be faced down when it becomes impossible to tell enemy from friend? Can a people be treated as though they are simply an infection that needs exterminating? Boyle and Fresnadillo provide no comforting answers.
Erin Meister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.