A Horrifically Good ’28 Weeks’
Is this a zombie movie?
It’s the same geeky question that dogged 2002’s ’28 Days Later,’ and the debate, such as it is, is likely to claw its way from the grave with the release of ’28 Weeks Later,’ now in theaters.
If these are zombies, they certainly aren’t your grandpa’s zombies. Unlike the brain-eating hordes of undead that shuffle through George Romero’s classic ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ the infected of ’28 Weeks Later’ are frighteningly fast, psychotically violent and very much alive, with a propensity for vomiting blood in their victims’ faces. If they sound horrific and repulsive, that’s because they are.
Instead of having risen from the dead, the infected have been transformed by the man-made ‘rage virus.’ One drop of infected blood or saliva is enough to turn a mild-mannered Englishman into a snarling beast within seconds. They combine the relentless pursuit and single-mindedness of Romero-style zombies with the uncontrolled savagery of a homicidal maniac. So quickly did the rage virus spread in the first film that within 28 days of its outbreak all of Britain had been overrun with the infected.
Fast-forward 28 weeks later. A U.S. military-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation force has eradicated the infected and established a ‘Green Zone’ on the Isle of Dogs, complete with a supermarket and a pub. It’s home to a few thousand British civilians who try to pretend everything’s OK while bored American snipers spy on their private lives and security cameras track their every move. Among them is Don (Robert Carlyle), the water and power supervisor of the Green Zone. The return of his two children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), from their six-month evacuation to the continent marks the first wave of Britain’s rebuilding effort.
Almost immediately, the mischievous (or foolhardy) kids manage to sneak past the complacent American guards and out of the Green Zone in search of their former home. What they find instead, though, is something completely different, and before you can say ‘Bloody Hell,’ well… it is.
Bloody, that is. And Hell. Apart from a few stray moments to catch their breath, Tammy and Andy, along with Scarlet (Rose Byrne), a military doctor, and Doyle (Jeremy Renner), a sniper with a conscience, are running for their lives for the rest of the film.
Fortunately, it isn’t just pointless action. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (‘Intacto’) skillfully gives us horror and suspense aplenty, often by limiting the characters’ (and our) field of vision with devices such as a nighttime power outage, blinding clouds of nerve gas and, in one especially nail-biting scene, a night-sight scope in a darkened Tube station.
Doyle and Scarlet are often flat as the rather stereotypical American saviors, and it’s hard to tell if Andy’s poor decision-making skills are a function of his stupidity or just typical for a 12-year-old, but overall there’s little to complain about when it comes to acting ability. Carlyle (‘The Full Monty,’ ‘Eragon’), on the other hand, is fantastic as Don, whose past sins come back to haunt him in more ways than one. It’s a challenging role, and quite a departure for Carlyle, but he definitely pulls it off. Though Fresnadillo and fellow scribes Rowan Joffe and Jes