In 2002, Danny Boyle brought us 28 Days Later, and with it a world with a virus that could turn a man into a bloodthirsty animal in a matter of seconds. The virus spreads quickly, and there's no way of stopping it. Soon, the nation was caught in the throes of the Rage. Now, five years after that first film brought us the revisionist zombie world, we are given a new tale of the infected. I am happy to report that it lives up to what we got in the first film. 28 Weeks Later is a new story set in this universe, and delivers thrills, chills, and kills galore.
From the opening moments, I was drawn into this world where death could be lurking around every corner. I was almost immediately drawn in, emotionally, to characters that I knew very little about. This is a rare occurrence, at least in recent years, where I was caught up so quickly in the plight of our characters. It is credit to the cinematic shorthand of director/writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and writers Rowan Joffe, EL Lavigne, and Jesus Olmo. Their story draws you immediately into the lives of these people, it puts you right in their shoes as they are trying to find a way to deal with the deadly threat that faces them.
28 Weeks Later takes place in the same universe as its predecessor, although it is more of a side story that expands the world rather than continue it. None of the characters of the first film make an appearance here, and they are not needed for this story. The first film was a smaller, more intimate production of one man and his journey into the mouth of hell. This film throws the gates of that hell wide open. It pulls back and gives us a new perspective on the timeline of how everything went down and how they try to bring life back to the empty island nation.
The story opens 15 days after the initial outbreak of infection, placing it before the events of the first film. We are introduced to Don (Robert Carlysle), his wife, and a few others who are holed up in a farmhouse (which I believe is the same farmhouse featured in Children of Men). Here the small group is intent on keeping themselves safe from the raging infected hordes. Unfortunately, their peace is short-lived. The house is broken into, many of them die, and Don is able to get away — but at what cost?
The story jumps forward to week 28. The US military is leading a NATO force in the reconstruction and repopulation of England. We find Don was able to survive, and is reunited with his children. When questioned about their mother, the kids get a story that is true, but not complete, as you will learn, and it is Don's decision in the opening prologue that will have the strongest of repercussions echo throughout the rest of the film.
This is the kind of movie that is hard to describe without giving away pivotal plot points, so I will have to be vague so as not to spoil it for any of you. The film is powerful; it does make some political statements regarding the current situation in the Middle East and the effectiveness of the military, but frankly, I could care less about political posturing. I care more about these elements in service of the story in the film.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was completely drawn into the story of Don, his kids, the military doctor, the helpful sniper, and the rest who find themselves involved. The way it unfolds is completely unpredictable. In many recent horror films you can make pretty good guesses as to who will live and who will die. This time, however, you will be hard pressed to make the same predictions. There are heroics, there are sacrifices, and there are buckets of blood.
Visually, the film is intriguing, filled with washed out colors, high speed shutter work, and some of the most frenetic camera work and cutting that you are likely to see this year. When the infected strike, be prepared to be disoriented, you will be lost in the action. This is a technique that can be annoying, but is effective here. There are some great set pieces strewn throughout, from the firebombing to the night scope tunnel journey, to the helicopter weapon, to the frenetic shooting of the infected streaming out of the medical complex.
28 Weeks Later is not perfect; there are some narrative issues that could be brought up as problems. Regardless of how you take it, the film is smartly written, fast paced, bloody, involving, and emotional. It has everything that I had hoped for and more. There are moments of great emotion, moments of pure horror, all punctuated to nice effect. Music and silence are used effectively, continuing my immersion in the tale.
Bottom line. This was a tension-filled ride that drained me. As I left the darkened theater, I had to stop and regain my sense of equilibrium from all that had gone on. I cannot express how glad I am to see a horror film that delivers on all levels. This is the real deal, and I look forward to seeing it again. I heartily recommend this to anyone looking for thrills, chills, action, and heart.