|28 Weeks Later (2007)
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
After watching “28 Weeks Later,” the only thing I wanted to do was take a shower and watch “American Idol.” Granted, it contained all the elements that these movies need to be effective: it was bloody, disturbing and relentless, but not in a thrilling way. Instead, it was exhausting and bleak, and made me feel dirty just watching it. To gore hounds, that may sound like a good thing. I assure you, it’s not. And yet, the movie has its good points. There is some truly frightful stuff here, but it’s not in a boo-eek way as much as a holy-shit-we’re-really-flawed-as-a-species way. If that gets you off, you are not welcome in my house.
The movie takes place, you guessed it, 28 weeks after “28 Days Later,” with London slowly rebuilding from the rage virus outbreak, under the supervision of a US-led NATO military group. Don (Robert Carlyle) eagerly awaits the return of his children Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton, who looks like the lead singer of Keane and has a name straight out of a “Harry Potter” book) and Tammy (Imogen Poots), who were shipped off to Spain before England had been quarantined. The compound’s chief medical officer (Rose Byrne) is not at all thrilled about children being brought back to London, and that concern is only compounded when they discover someone who is a carrier of the virus but is not infected. Before you know it, boom, instant epidemic in a severely confined space, and the sharpshooters on the rooftops cannot tell the infected from the scared shitless running for their lives. So they follow typical military procedure, and shoot everyone, just to be safe. The survivors, who now believe they can’t trust the military, must fend for themselves.
It’s tempting to dedicate a paragraph to the movie’s painfully obvious metaphor about American arrogance in military matters abroad, but I will leave that to someone else with a bigger soap box. Even the original had a don’t-trust-authority vibe to it, so this is not a new development in the franchise. Not to mention, while the movie is beating us over the heads with its “This is Iraq” message, it also bends over backwards trying to justify the killing of the innocent in order to contain the outbreak, which gives them the excuse to, you guessed it, blow a whole bunch of shit up. This element to the movie actually works, in a “Hot Fuzz” kind of way, even if it flies in the face of Danny Boyle’s minimalist approach with the original. It may be ridiculous, but the lightened tone, however brief, is most welcome, especially when compared to the gimmicky camera work in the third act.
And still, the movie can’t rise above its own tastelessness. One scene in particular is so bloody mean (in that it’s both bloody and terribly mean) that it smacks of “Hostel”-ism, the killing of innocents for sport. The filmmakers apparently thought we’d enjoy seeing someone suffer this way. They guessed wrong: the audience is always rooting for the non-infected in these movies, and by jumping on the torture chic bandwagon, they go from reinventing a genre to pandering in one step.
Twenty-eight weeks from now, no one will be talking about “28 Weeks Later.” Pity. The original deserved better than this.
It should surprise no one that, having earned a mere $28 million at the box office, the DVD release for “28 Weeks Later” is a bare-bones affair. Along with two deleted scenes and a director’s commentary, there are three featurettes about the making of the movie, the infected and the action sequences. (One very surprising tidbit revealed here is that Danny Boyle worked as the second unit director.) The most interesting bonus feature is “28 Days Later: The Aftermath,” two animated versions of the graphic novel that explain the origin of the rage virus. Still, there's nothing here that makes this DVD a buy instead of a rent.