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I avoided the follow-up to 28 Days Later (2002) for the simple reason that it wasn’t written and directed by Danny Boyle. As it turns out, this is akin to skipping Aliens because Ridley Scott wasn’t on board. Writer-director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is no James Cameron, but 28 Weeks Later is very much a worthy successor to Boyle’s original. In fact, Boyle himself served as executive producer and reportedly did some second unit direction, so this lightning-paced, action-packed production was in good hands from the get-go, never straying far from the dark frenetic chaos of the first film, even as it chases a different thematic agenda.

About six months after the outbreak of the original rage virus in England, a US military deployment has succeeded in carving out a bit of safe territory in London. British government man Don (Robert Carlyle) managed to escape mutilation at the hands of roving maniacs by bravely lobbing his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) at them to cover his exit strategy. (OK, slight exaggeration, but he did scamper like a bunny chased by greyhounds, leaving the Mrs to fend for herself.) Imagine his surprise when soldiers recover not only his son Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton, love that name) and daughter Tammy (Imogene Poots, ditto), but also his previously jettisoned wife, who appears to have a rare blood type that renders her immune to the virus—which soon makes an unwelcome reappearance. The lovely Rose Byrne from Damages gets plenty of screen time as a military supervisor who decides to protect the kids and their valuable blood at all costs, aided by Jeremy Renner as a rough-and-ready sniper.

In 28 Days Later, Boyle focused on the breakdown of authority and the fallibility of leaders in a time of crisis. 28 Weeks Later is more of a domestic morality play, as Carlyle’s character is punished for his cold feet and faint heart by becoming an alpha maniac who relentlessly pursues his children in a perverted act of devotion, somehow trying to reunite his fractured family in death. Naturally, the kids want no part of this nonsense, and much carnage ensues.

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