When a zombie film gets a sequel, the assumption is that the producers are looking for ways to make more guts, gore and money. But “28 Weeks Later” is just as sharp as its predecessor in nearly every way, primarily in continuing the sci-fi post-apocalyptic elements that have clearly been thought out and made believable as they were with “28 Days Later.”
“Days” director Danny Boyle stays on in co-executive producer capacity for “Weeks” and it shows. He finds Juan Carlos Fresnadillo to direct, who demonstrates a thorough understanding of Boyle’s vision for the abandoned, infected England all the way down to camera technique.
Although Boyle has no credits for the story, it’s hard to imagine he wasn’t the primary consultant. “28 Weeks” brings us back to London the titular amount of time later, when one area of the city has been quarantined to start the re-population of the country (under the command of the U.S military — what a scary thought for Brits that must be … ). Smartly, the story focuses on one family reunited as the children were abroad during the breakout and the father (Robert Carlyle) managed to survive.
But despite the rebuilding process, little is sunny about “28 Weeks Later.” It’s still more zombie flick than anything else. When the kids’ mother is found, she turns out to be a carrier of the infection without it taking over her body. However, it manages to spread and all descends into utter chaos when the military calls Code Red. The film’s snowball effect of suspense and violence simultaneously acts as both its best and worst attribute. It’s highly entertaining yet absolutely crazy.
Using the microcosm of the reunited family (which doesn’t stay reunited for long) helps ground the film. All post-apocalyptic action films that do well stay focused on the characters and “28 Weeks” gets off to an excellent start in terms of both character development and intensity. Even when the focus goes away from the parents and to Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne’s characters who try and help the kids to escape the area, you grow to like their character easily because they keep things sane in the midst of panic and a restless script.
Fresnadillo carries an entire arsenal of techniques with him and deploys them all in the hour and a half runtime. Some of the scenes jump around too much and are too dark to make any sense of what’s going on, but some are scarily effective. One scene in the subway is entirely done in nightshot and borrows on “found footage”-style horror techniques while a key infection sequence is a wrenching game-changer.
Zombie fans will be pleased with the follow up to the film that re-launched the zombie genre for the 21st Century and won’t find any brains (as in intelligence), scale or character sacrificed as a result. “Weeks” carries the promise of a franchise that could rival George A. Romero’s zombie empire.
28 Weeks Later
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Written by Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, E.L. Lavigne, Jesus Olmo
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Imogen Poots