The Theory of Chaos

Friday, December 21, 2007

From the Archive - MOVIE REVIEW - 28 Weeks Later

Originally posted 5/27/07
Full review behind the jump

28 Weeks Later

: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
: Rowan Joffe and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo & Jesús Olmo and Enrique López Lavigne
: Enrique López Lavigne, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Imogen Poots, Mackintosh Muggleton, Catherine McCormack, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau, Idris Elba

It is a simple matter for a sequel to reiterate the actions and crises of its progenitor, the old-fashioned “
just like before, only more so.” It is a greater task, particularly when the reigns of the franchise are given to new filmmakers, to pierce through the story to its fundamental thought, and not just echo it, but deepen and expand it.

28 Weeks Later
is the long-awaited sequel to 28 Days Later, the scrappy and riveting 2002 docu-horror spectacle written by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle. And under the direction of Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, whose only previous feature is the Oscar-nominated Intacto, this picture joins the pantheon of sequels like The Road Warrior, Aliens, and The Empire Strikes Back; in that it is not only an acknowledgment of what worked about the first feature, but a measured improvement of its core techniques and ideas. While the first could not figure out how to build to a climax, and settled for being a movable feast of small freak-outs, here is a picture that, to its last frames, is still growing with inspiration.

The fear and shock of a populace infected with the so-called “rage” virus – which within 30 seconds of contact eradicates your humanity and transforms you into a flesh-tearing, blood-vomiting, sprinting ghoul – is no longer novel, of course. The rapidly multiplying hordes still make a formidable opponent, and a chilling means to show a world consumed by a wave of death so overwhelming that your loves, morals, and will are as inconsequential as your flesh. The life which means so much to you has been cheapened to near nothingness, and can be ended at the speed of a drop of blood. But
Weeks, like its predecessor, does not satisfy itself to simply frighten us with this prospect. It uses it as the springboard for a resonant plea – it is suffused with a hope that, even in this waking nightmare, we will stay human.

To be human means living with choices, and guilt. Don (Robert Carlyle), who survived the initial outbreak, did so by making a choice which has haunted him ever since. He does not now how to be happy that he is alive, or to tell himself it is better that he is still here to take care of his young son (Mackintosh Muggleton) and teenage daughter (Imogen Poots). As much as he insists he took the only avenue available to him, he is not 100-percent certain that is true. The movie is not interested in labeling him a good man or a bad man, it simply wants to say that he is here still and others are not, this is how that came to be, and how that makes him feel is utterly human and natural.

He is here, and his children still have a father, and they are part of the first wave of survivors being re-settled in a cleaned and heavily-fortified neighborhood of London. The original infected, as hinted at in 28 Days Later, have died of starvation, and the US Army is engaged in a massive disposal and research operation. There is no reason for the plague to re-emerge, they believe, but they have ominous contingency plans.

The populace seems to know they are both privileged and cursed. They have a chance to re-start normal life in their home, but in the chaos of an outbreak, they know whatever luck preserved them the first time may not be there again.

Thanks to a provocative but eminently believable twist in our understanding of “rage”, things indeed turn ugly, and on a much larger scale than in the first picture. Before, we would only hear horrifying stories of the disease practically leaping through trapped crowds, multiplying the panic and bloodshed with every new infection. Now we get to see such sights, shot by Enrique Chediak in the same frenetic, verisimilar digital video scheme pioneered by the original. And, while submerged in this mayhem, we ponder the Damoclean Sword in the hands of the supervising general (Idris Elba) whose task is, first and foremost, to not consider individual lives, but to contain the virus.

Our main characters each have, in some way, the power of life and death – like a rooftop sniper (Jeremy Renner) who is not as prepared for the demands of his job as he imagined, or his friend the helicopter pilot (Harold Perrineau) who is not supposed to consider letting unexamined civilians on-board his craft. Or the doctor (Rose Byrne), who must consider that, with the chance for deeper understanding of and protection from “rage”, one specific life may have become more valuable than any other. The cast, largely composed of somewhat-familiar character actors, is excellent – Renner in particular calibrates his transition from restlessness to self-examining horror without ever overselling.

And Don’s children take center stage in a rather audacious act of story construction. Fresnadillo is trying to have his cake and eat it too – showing a world on the brink while channeling it all through the evolving torments of one family. To balance the big picture with intimate suffering is an immense challenge; he recognizes the potential to collapse under the weight of coincidence, and faces it squarely – this is the work of a confident filmmaker who has something to say.

London, still dead beyond the bridges and walls of the “Green Zone”, is filled with a variety of terrors. Not just the disease, the bodies and the insects, but the expanding methods deployed by the Army to end the threat. They are trying to help, they’ve just ceased trying to help you. In a world of sprinting zombies, that the movie takes time to consider the menace of a cloud of gas is a tribute to Fresnadillo and his team of writers, and their imagination and commitment to the scenario.

28 Weeks Later is the sort of movie horror fans can put on a banner when trying to convince non-fans that there is substance, and thought, in this visceral genre. It means to jolt and scare you, and succeeds, but it finds deeper relevance in the questions posed by its plot. At a certain point, does life become so fleeting, dangerous, and disposable that we should cease to care? This picture takes us beyond the worst boundaries of our own reality, and still comes back with a determined “no”.


  • When I watched the movie(i just watched it for a third time at my job where teevees play all day) I cam away with an entirely different perspective on the "voice" of the filmmakers. Basically, the movie is laregly pessimisstic, and not only about the fate a larger world, but about that will to live you mentioned. The main theme of this movie (and horror in general) is SURVIVAL, the characters must survive, who is going to survive, all that jazz. Throughout the movie we see examples of how people's will to live and wdesire to love are compromise the security of the whole. The father from the picture compromises everyone with a stupid, guilt and liove motivated move (he goes principally to apologize to his wife becasue that's what he does). The US military simply chooses to destroy thousands of people (in theory) to save the rest of europe from the spreading virus, in the scene where the snipers shoot down civilians, we do not see their kills, but we watch their humanity die instead, as they operate as part of a large military force; they are rocked and riveted as they shoot, the camera seems to lose control during that scene; I was reminded of rape. Really, there are numerous examples of where people's loves and happinesses become catalysts for greater destruction and suffering. Indeed, the rising tension which the film does contain is sparked principally by the ambiguity of the characters' actions. As one last example, the children, the first cause of the renewed destruction and suffering, are the remaining survivors and are "more important" than any of the other survivors; it's obviously ironic, not exactly a positive affirmation of life. Pictures like Halloween are far more life-affirming in this regard. The movie leaves the viewer with an usettling image of "the infected" invading paris, an indication that "extermination" has failed. Altogether, I had this sense that Directors/Writers whoever, have a mankind as disease mentality.
    You are right about one thing, "28 Weeks Later" i

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:24 PM  

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