Saturday, May 12, 2007

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Deaths from infectious diseases appear to be increasing worldwide, and many experts believe we are due for a global pandemic. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, almost 11 million people worldwide died from infectious diseases alone in 2002. New communicable diseases like SARS (“Bird Flu”), the West Nile virus and “Mad Cow” (or foot-in-mouth) disease are constantly appearing. Others, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and bacterial pneumonias, are also evolving and are now appearing in forms that are resistant to drug treatments. We also live under the threat of biological and chemical warfare.

IS THE END PRETTY FUCKING NIGH? This very real threat is what makes 28 Days Later and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later so delightfully dangerous and scary; the scenario of an infectious “rage” disease that decimates England really could happen. And what’s there to stop from jumping the pond to the rest of Europe and the world?

28 Weeks Later seeks to confront this question. It is twenty-eight weeks after the “rage” virus spread in quarantined England and all of “the infected” have died from starvation. NATO has sent the American troops in to clean up the mess and secure an area of London for rebuilding and repopulation. Two children, the teenage Tammy (Imogen Poots) and her younger brother Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), are reunited with their dad, Don (Robert Carlyle). While his children found refuge in Spain during the English evacuation, Don and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) were hiding out in the English countryside with other survivors until the infected came knocking (in what makes for a spectacular and heart-stopping opening sequence). Don left Alice behind and finally found refuge with the US troops in London. Now, since the military doesn’t think there is a threat of infection anymore, refugees can be brought back into a safe section of London. Things aren’t so safe, though…the infection is not gone, but still exists in a certain surprising carrier. It all begins again as the military tries to contain the outbreak and Tammy and Andy team up with a military doctor (Rose Byrne), soldier (Jeremy Renner) and a few civilians to try to survive both the infected and the military to get out of England.

28 Weeks Later is a fast-paced, exciting and frantic film that continues the story of the rage virus while cleverly building upon it. The story, rewritten from Rowan Joffe’s initial script by director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and his frequent contributors Jesus Olmo and Enrique Lopez Lavigne, has a very immediate and realistic feel to it. Its images conjure up the current “War on Terror” and the way the U.S. likes to be the “world police,” 9/11 devastation, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the rise of new and improved infectious diseases (including ones that can be used in biological warfare).

Besides its not-so-subtle social commentary, the film also serves as a damn fine entertaining and frightening film. The gore in 28 Weeks Later outdoes that from the first film – there are a lot of necks getting ripped out, flesh getting torn apart, an eyeball gouging scene, civilians and infected alike getting gunned down, plentiful blood splatter and a nifty helicopter scene involving a chopper’s blades and hundreds of the infected! We also get more close-ups of the infected in all their rage-filled glory. There are also several visceral scenes that will cause you to jump right out of your seat! Yes, if you are looking for pure entertainment, 28 Weeks Later has much to offer.

As for the acting, Robert Carlyle does a wonderful job playing the father and husband. He is doting and kind to his wife, but it doesn’t take long for his darker side to come out during the opening scenes. There’s a real sadness to the way Carlyle plays his character, but under the surface there’s a real menace waiting to be let loose. The actors playing his children, Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, do a spectacular job with their characters. I was impressed by how likeable their characters were and how I was rooting for them all the way to the end, even though they do make their share of mistakes (but, c’mon! They are just kids!).

While the film lacks the haunting composition of Danny Boyle’s direction, Fresnadillo creates a frenzied piece of action, broken only by moments of calm silence that belie the violence that is to come. From the empty London streets to the rolling hills of the countryside to getting up-close-and-personal with an angry horde of the infected, Fresnadillo’s direction really makes you feel like you are right there beside the blood-spewing, clawing, biting and growing masses of the infected.

My one complaint about 28 Weeks Later is the shaky cam technique used. While it does manage to recreate the confusion, frenzy and disorientation the characters feel in the midst of an attack, most of the time I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on. Slightly frustrating, but this minor annoyance did little to diminish my enjoyment of the film.

Packed with energy and excitement, 28 Weeks Later is the first must-see horror film of the summer season! Don’t miss it while it’s in theaters…and, errrr, don’t contract any infectious diseases from the theater seats!!

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