In 2002 we watched in wide-eyed horror as the UK disappeared under the shambling mass of the infected and Cillian Murphy fought his way free in 28 Days Later. At the time, this was a pretty fresh take on the zombie theme and one man's gambit in waking up in the middle of said nightmare. It's now 2007 and with the release of 28 Weeks Later we get to watch as the US-led NATO forces begin to take back the city and repopulate London section by section.
As the title implies, 28 weeks have passed since the outbreak of the virus in the first film. All of the infected have died off from the natural progression of the virus and the NATO forces begin to clean out the corpses and debris left behind in modern day London. With safe sectors and high military presence, every precaution is taken against a second coming of the infected holocaust. As we watch the reunion of long separated father (the ever awesome Robert Carlyle) and his children, we get an up close look of a trauma-torn family getting back together and resuming a normal life after the loss of their mother. Soon there is a slip-up in security and all hell breaks loose once again, this time in the confines of a locked down London, with little or no possibility of escape.
As a big fan of the original I was indeed quite pumped up to see the sequel, especially since it had an entirely new cast as well as a different angle and time line. With the trailers promising a tale of more infected fuckery and the plight of a father attempting escape with his two beloved children, I pretty much expected the sappy side of the story with the over-dramatic plight of dad and kids, and the usual heartbreaking scene where the dad turns into a baddie just moments before their escape, forcing the kiddos to leave dad behind as he sacrifices himself for their safety. So heading in I was a bit apprehensive; this is pretty cliché territory as far as plot turns go, but I still had hopes because it had a flock of zombie-like goons tearing up London, and it had Robert Carlyle. Can't be all bad right?
Much to my surprise as the move clicked along; I found out at about the thirty minute mark that the trailers were in fact heavily misleading. It was then that I realized that they were going nowhere near the sappy territory I expected and it was also then that I realized, "this is going to be a pretty damn good flick!"
Where 28 Days gave us a view of the apocalypse from a lone man's view, 28 Weeks fleshes out of the story line. It would appear that the outbreak was contained mostly to the UK, leaving the rest of the world untouched. This time around we are given a military point of view, and an armed response to rebuilding after the initial outbreak. Throughout the flick there are many comparisons that can be made between the "war" being fought in the film, and the way wars are handled in real life — how things can spiral quickly out of control under the guise of aid, the cold handling of and response to rebuilding efforts, etc. Luckily the socio-political commentary is not something that flows as thick as syrup here, but it's there and helps to connect the viewer to the story just that wee bit more.
Moving on, we are shown how the cold, hard "kill 'em all!" ethos of a military state can be what's needed, as human compassion could further escalate problems. Seems harsh, looks harsh, but with a virus that spreads with a single drop of blood, sometimes the only thing you can do is sever and start over. This angle in itself makes you feel both sympathetic for the hundreds being shot down in the street, yet you can see the cold hard reality that what needs to be done needs to be done.
With all the heady talk out of the way, we get to the nuts and bolts of 28 Weeks, which is your basic zombie theme even though our bad guys aren't technically zombies. (Nerd alert: These folks are "infected", they never "died"!) With taut sequences of zombie massacre, we get a pretty gooey blood bath throughout the streets of London. With scenes of a flock of infected being cut down by chopper blades, and the streets of London being fire-bombed to clear out the stampeding horde, 28 Weeks bridges into a fun action flick as well. The aerial shots of streets full of napalm were quite well done, and quite enjoyable from a man's "Woo! Shit blows up!" perspective.
The writing stands out as well here. Managing to flesh out the story of the original flick without rehashing the first story completely, we get a wholly new story in the series' universe. Feeling like the next logical step in the franchise, they still manage to touch back on a few elements of the first flick to tie them together. The first ten minutes revisits the plight of Robert Carlyle and his wife at the end of the first epidemic. This scene in itself goes leaps and bounds to set some of the tone for the rest of the flick as well as proving to us that the trailers have been highly misleading (which is a good thing). While the writing was quite good throughout, my one issue with the movie came from the writing at the very end of the flick. It was apparent that they were setting up for a third movie for the series — however the final product (that being the final five minutes of the flick) felt muddy and somewhat confused. It was apparent what had happened and what was happening, however it felt disjointed and a bit obscure. As it was the final five minutes, I honestly didn't care because the ride up until this point was so fun that it really didn't matter.
So, aside from a slight stumble at the end, 28 Weeks Later is a worthy sequel and an enjoyable horror flick in its own right. The movie has its naysayers out there, but what movie doesn't? For my money, throwing real world military tactics into a zombie plot, some high-end explosives, snipers, and general chaos to make this zombie feature tied closer to a real world epidemic as to a fantasy viewpoint seen normal makes this one all the more engaging. Corpses rising from the dead, chasing around nubile blondes for a light snack? Its fun to watch, but it's not going to happen. Bio-chemical mishaps creating vicious monsters out of your neighbors, spreading like wildfire across an entire country? Still a pretty "out there" idea, but far more plausible in today's age of chemical warfare and viral infections. This twist of realism will make the 28 Days Later shake in your boots a little more than others.
And aside from all that? This flick made me jump at least three different times! When I jump, you know it's pretty darn good.
4.5 napalm street sweepers out of 5.