28 Weeks Later
- Reviewed by: Mel Valentin
Rate this movie:You must sign-in first.
Current Rating 7.33/10 | 18 Votes
28 Weeks Later begins during the initial outbreak of the "rage virus." The blood-borne rage virus turns the victims into violent, homicidal automatons single-mindedly dedicated to transmitting the virus to the non-infected. A group of survivors, including Sally (Amanda Walker), Jacob (Shahid Ahmed), Geoff (Garfield Morgan), Karen (Emily Beecham), and a married couple, Don (Robert Carlyle) and Alice (Catherine McCormack), are waiting out the outbreak in a boarded up farmhouse. Don and Alice take small comfort that their two children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), were in Spain on vacation when the outbreak occurred. The Infected attack the farmhouse, leaving Don the only survivor. He escapes on a single-engine boat and flees upriver, guilt-ridden by his inability to save his wife from the Infected.
Twenty-eight weeks later, a U.S.-led NATO force leads the first efforts to repopulate the British Isles, beginning with parts of London. The American general on the ground, Stone (Idris Elba), watches an arrival of expatriates, including the first children, Tammy and Andy, from a command post equipped with surveillance cameras. A medical doctor and researcher, Scarlet (Rose Byrne), watches the arrivals too, but she's concerned that the arrival of children may be premature. Tammy and Andy are soon reunited with Don, who, in the intervening months, has risen to a position of prominence within the newly repopulated, heavily guarded area.
Eager to bring back family mementoes from their home in the quarantined area, Tammy and Andy slip out of the protected zone. Andy finds a lone survivor living in the attic. Tracked to their home by an army unit in biohazard suits, Tammy, Andy, and the survivor are brought back to command headquarters where they're put into quarantine. Scarlet discovers that the survivor has been, in fact, infected, but carries a natural immunity to the rage virus that makes him or her immune to the virus. The immunity also makes the survivor a host and incubator for the virus. Within hours, the rage virus escapes, infecting soldiers and civilians alike, Tammy, Andy, Scarlet, and an army sniper, Doyle (Jeremy Renner), join up to escape the newly infected zone before General Stone calls in an air strike to kill everyone in the repopulated zone.
Letís start with the positives (such as they are). Working from a significantly larger budget, director and co-writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) ups the blood, the gore, and the action content, most, if not all, of it gratuitous. Scenes involving the Infected are bigger in scale, as are scenes showing a desolate or semi-populated London. Fresnadillo does particularly well in one scene featuring a helicopter piloted by one of Doyleís army buddies, Flynn (Harold Perrineau), taking out a large swath of the Infected in an open field (a scene done to better effect in Robert Rodriguez's contribution to Grindhouse, "Planet Horror"). Thatís a positive, as far as that goes, but Fresnadillo indulges one too many times in shaky cam, strobing light action scenes that have unfortunately become de rigueur for the sub-genre.
While 28 Weeks Later starts off strong, giving Don surprisingly complex motivations for his actions later on, it turns out to be a bait-and-switch. Don isnít the hero. Heís not an anti-hero. Donís actually not the lead character, just a catalyst for setting events in motion. Donís secondary to Tammy and Andy who become the lead characters when they return from Spain. Problem there is that neither character does much to push the story forward besides finding the survivor/virus carrier. From then on, theyíre either in quarantine or, when the rage virus escapes the medical facility, on the run. Since Tammy and Andy are children, it's not surprising that they end up deferring to the adults around them. Without a strong lead and little character development for Scarlet and Doyle, Tammy and Andyís caretakers, itís hard to care whether they survive or not.
Worse than Fresnadilloís inability to create a straightforward throughline with well-defined, active characters is Fresnadilloís over-reliance on coincidence or, to borrow a gaming term, plot hammering, to get 28 Weeks Later to where he the story to go, from the early stages of repopulation to a new outbreak of the virus. Don doesnít just survive guilt-ridden over the loss of his wife, but six months later, heís living in the uninfected zone with complete access to high-security areas. Tammy and Andy decide to break the rules and return to their house for some mementoes. They find a survivor who just happens to be a virus carrier. The virus carrier has a connection to Tammy and Andy thatís as unbelievable as Donís miraculous escape in the prologue and his contrived rise to prominence to a position of authority that happens offscreen. To add insult to contrivance, the virus escapes and spreads through the civilian population with ridiculous ease.
28 Weeks Later starts off strong too when it comes to social commentary, e.g., the U.S. essentially occupying the British Isles with all the contemporary relevance that implies, then unsurprisingly drops the commentary for frenetic, gore-filled action scenes that ultimately signify nothing. Combined with migraine-inducing action scenes, a muddled, sloppy storyline, too many missed opportunities, and a cheap ending telegraphed a half hour in, that leaves 28 Weeks Later with little else going for it. With the exception of one or two compelling ideas or striking image aside, thatís exactly right.
© Mel Valentin, 11th May, 2007
What do you think of 28 Weeks Later
Share your opinions on our forum