Britain sure does get kicked around a lot these days on film: The 2003 zombie flick 28 Days Later, V for Vendetta, Children of Men, and now a zombie follow-up, 28 Weeks Later, have all made sure "dystopian" should be said with an English accent. The British Tourist Authority can't be happy.
In 28 Days Later a blood-borne virus called Rage was loosed upon the U.K., causing those infected to, basically, go stark-raving crazy, vomiting blood on people and/or biting their necks, infecting others. The film's fun zombie twist was that these were no slack-jawed undead, slouching toward victims; instead, zombies were manic, running pell-mell at regular folk with all the zeal of the newly converted.
Days spanned the first few months of outbreak, ending as Rage died out after having consumed Britain. 28 Weeks Later begins in the midst of the original outbreak, during the first 28 days, in an English country house where a few survivors have banded together, among them married couple Don (Robert Carlyle) and Alice (Catherine McCormack). When a wave of zombies attacks the house, only Don manages to escape, forced to leave Alice behind to save himself.
This opening sequence is the best in either film. Directed with savagery by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and tense to the point of stomachache, the opener is as raw and emotional as anything the zombie concept could throw up against a wall.
But the sequence sets a tone that the rest of the film suffers for: unbearable sadness. Six months after the prologue, an American-led NATO force has set up shop in a section of London dubbed the Green Zone. Britain has been deemed safe again; reconstruction has begun in earnest (i.e., burning the bodies, turning the lights back on); and the island population is up to 15,000, made up of outbreak survivors and returnees. Among the survivors: Don; among the returnees: his kids, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), who were safe on the Continent when Rage erupted.
Twenty-eight plot machinations later, Rage is back, baby, though this time with a catch: The U.S. Army is there to exterminate, um, I mean contain. A lot of bad American-borne juju goes down, including sniping, firebombing, and gassing of civilians, all done "for your own protection." Tammy and Andy team up with a soldier with a heart of gold (Jeremy Renner) and a doc (Rose Byrne) who thinks she may have found the key to a Rage vaccine. Standard zombie stuff follows.
Weeks is best when it plays as a family drama, examining the politics of the heart. The U.S.-criticism stuff, however, is as subtle as, well, somebody vomiting blood on you. It lacks the elegance of Children of Men, the true audacity of V for Vendetta. Above all, it lacks any of the fun of the movie it sequels. After 28 Days Later, I felt energized: hopped up on adrenaline and glad to be alive. Following 28 Weeks Later, I just wanted to go home and hug my wife.
28 Weeks Later