Danny Boyle created a unique zombie thriller with 28 Days Later. A smash success in both Britain and America, it seemed only inevitable that we'd see a sequel. But Danny Boyle, in his enigmatic way, had taken writer Alex Garland with him to work on his science fiction epic Sunshine, and neither seemed to keen on looking back. Enter writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, best known for the genuinely surprising Intacto. He had an idea for a direction on the sequel, and with Danny Boyle's blessing, production commenced.
The end of 28 Days Later seemed to suggest that perhaps society had begun to take back England from those unfortunate souls infected with Rage, and this is the idea that 28 Weeks Later latches on to. But the film actually starts during the period where the Infected held sway over the land. The movie begins with a group of survivors holed up in a house. The focus seems to be on Donald and Alice Harris (The Full Monty's Robert Carlyle and Dangerous Beauty's Catherine McCormack). When a young child comes knocking on the door, Alice is determined to let him in, despite Donald's protests. Soon, Donald's fears are proven correct when the Infected come calling and tear through the house. His instinct for self-preservation overwhelming his senses, Donald leaves Alice at the mercy of the intruders.
28 weeks later...with the help of the American military, the English government has begun the arduous task of reclaiming their land. The Infected have begun to die off, allowing the Americans to come in and stabilize certain sections of London. People are called in to work, with those willing receiving plenty of cash and high rise penthouses to call their own. Donald is one of the men who answers the call, and is allowed to bring his children back into the country from abroad. There's Tammy (Imogen Poots) and the younger Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton; I can't believe he wasn't tapped for a role in any of the Harry Potter movies with that name), and while they love the new living space and seeing their dad again, they understandably miss their mother.
The story really picks up when the authorities recover Alice, still alive and seemingly okay. Once she's brought back for analysis, it's discovered that she has in fact been infected, she's simply immune. This poses something of a problem for Donald, who knows that he's directly responsible for Alice's condition. He approaches her to apologize, only to discover that even though she is immune to the effects of Rage, he isn't. And quicker than you can say "rampage," a newly infected Donald starts spreading the disease all over again. Tammy and Andy now have to survive not only the Infected, but the army as well, who is determined not to let the infection spread again, no matter what the cost.
28 Weeks Later does a nice job building off of the world in 28 Days Later. The film really clicks as you watch London in a state of rehabilitation. It's fascinating to see the aftermath of the destruction in the first movie. The scenes where people are trying to re-acclimate themselves to life in the city is a nice change of pace. Of course, we all know where things are going to end up, and it's no surprise when the Infected get a foothold in the community once again.
Danny Boyle pushed for a level of depth in his characterizations that 28 Weeks Later never manages to find for its own motley crew. The one character I found to be the most nuanced, Donald, is the first to fall prey to the resurgent virus. The kids, while not bad actors, don't hold our attention the way many of the secondary characters in Days did. And Rose Byrne's character feels utterly superfluous.
Where the film really succeeds is in its action sequences. Boyle's cramped handheld style was certainly kinetic, but the move up to film and a wider scope gives 28 Weeks Later a larger than life feel. When planes start firebombing large sections of London, you feel the impact emotionally. After all, this is a major metropolitan area we're talking about here, and moreover, there are people down there! What the movie lacks in serious characterization it makes up for with tense action.
Therein lies the overall success of the picture. You get the audience to care about the characters just enough that the action has some context, and then devise some ass-kicking sequences. The immunity angle is interesting and scientifically viable, but the movie never takes it far enough. Still, there's enough cooking in the soup to make this feel like a worthy successor to 28 Days Later. While it never hits that film's conceptual heights, it still delivers the goods in many departments.
The Blu-Ray Disc: