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28 Weeks Later review

28 Weeks Later review

When 28 Days Later first came out it was striking because it tweaked the evil zombie genre enough to raise some 89682_f260moral and ethical questions while raising the horror bar by giving us zombies that did not slowly lurch toward their prey but ran howling like mad banshees. It managed to be a successful horror movie with an indie eye of the action that followed characters coping with a demolished world.

28 Weeks Later by contrast may begin in a Rage infected cottage in England with all the familiar zombie attacks but quickly shifts to the Green Zone, a NATO controlled territory in London that has been prepared for resettlement in the aftermath of the destruction of mainland England. With 15,000 people returning and US troops locking down the area, there is a clear attempt to create parallels to the US Occupation in Iraq but it is an attempt that flounders more than anything else.

28 Weeks Later might have taken a lesson from George Romero, godfather of the modern Zombie movie, in his attempt to try and tie modern elements of the War on Terror to zombies in the disastrous Dawn of the Dead. Sadly it did not and the plot leaves it unclear what the message is or if there even is one, aside from “All Rebuilding Projects Are Doomed to Fail.” 28 Weeks Later positions Scarlett, the army medical officer and Doyle, the sniper, as the moral voices in the military in opposition to the military command and its ruthless tactics but by the end of the movie the ruthless tactics of the military appear to have been proven right while Scarlett’s and Doyle’s sacrifices have not only been useless but outright destructive, causing the infection of France and possibly the right of the continent. A pro-military message if there ever was one.

But clumsiness is the hallmark of 28 Weeks Later. Written and directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and without the return of either Danny Boyle or Alex Garland, Fresnadillo, a director with really only one serious film behind him, was given the charge of an ambitious project and falls short at each juncture.

Where 28 Days Later began by allowing us to focus on and identify with Cillian Murphy’s Jim waking from a coma and exploring a strange and disturbing new world, 28 Weeks Later offers us no such easy character identification. The closest to a main character we have is Robert Cayle’s Don, who might potentially have served as an interesting main character but the attention quickly shifts to his children, brooding sullen Andy and his sister Tammy. Robert Cayle has little left to do but look vaguely guilty around his children in the brief screen time he has left before he is turned into a zombie.

The children are the focus of the movie but their performances range from the mediocre to the terrible and their actions set the virus loose again resulting in the deaths of thousands. Indeed 28 Weeks Later focuses on a family that is responsible for destroying the rest of England and costing the lives of thousands. That makes it a little difficult to sympathize too much with them. More to the point their acting might suffice for an afterschool special but not for a major motion picture.

The Americans in the movie are even worse. The actors playing Doyle, Flynn and Scarlett are adequate enough, sometimes even better than adequate but they are hopelessly cliched. They are not people, they are cardboard cutouts where people are supposed to go. They have nearly no screen time and even less chance to develop personalities. Scarlett is thrust into the usual role of playing the “scientist” warning the military about their actions and appearing to be right at every turn, except she proves to be tragically wrong. Doyle does things for no particular reason but he has the weight of personality that no one but Don does in the movie. A version of 28 Weeks Later that featured Don and Doyle on opposite sides with Don searching for the wife he left behind might have made 28 Weeks Later a great movie. Instead Doyle is reduced to wandering aimlessly until the time comes for him to die. As Flynn, Harold Perrineau has even less to do than usual and spends virtually all his time on screen agitated and shouting at the camera.

The Rage zombies appear only at the beginning and at the end and the steadicam shooting that marked 28 Days Later by 28 Weeks Later has simply devolved into wildly swinging the camera around until we can’t tell what we are seeing anymore. To make matters worse 28 Weeks Later tosses in night vision scenes producing scenes that are exquisitely pointless in their boredom. No one has yet manage to make horror scenes shot in night vision exciting yet and 28 Weeks Later doesn’t even come close with an absurd scene on an escalator that ends with a zombie bouncing off the night vision scopes for a moment that’s supposed to be horrific but is instead unintentionally hilarious.

Worst of all 28 Weeks Later looks cheap and feels rushed. Where 28 Days Later managed to make the most of its limited resources by telling a small story that felt big, 28 Weeks Later tries to tell a big story that ends up feeling hopelessly small. From the single building the military seems to be focused on to a small command center to a supposed NATO presence that consists of a few American military personnel and one British officer (NATO consists of Twenty Six countries), 28 Weeks Later is trying to tell a story about a military occupation that winds up barely registering. Like 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later’s best scenes take place in the abandoned debris and deserted shops and homes of London. It is only there that the movie at all comes alive and yet the movie spends so little time there. In trying to make some sort of point about occupation and reconstruction, 28 Weeks Later aims too high and crashes down to earth hard. If 28 Weeks Later has a message about the perils of hubris, it is a message that perhaps the filmmakers should have kept more closely in mind.

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