28 Weeks Later

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Rating: R

Catherine McCormack as Alice Harris
Robert Carlyle as Donald Harris
Amanda Walker as Sally
Shahid Ahmed as Jacob
Garfield Morgan as Geoff
Emily Beecham as Karen
Beans El-Balawi as Boy in Cottage
Jeremy Renner as Sgt. Doyle
Harold Perrineau as Flynn
Rose Byrne as Maj. Scarlet
Imogen Poots as Tammy Harris
Mackintosh Muggleton as Andy Harris
Meghan Popiel as DLR Soldier
Idris Elba as Gen. Stone
Stewart Alexander as Military Officer

Special Features:
Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Producer/Co-Writer Enrique Lopez Levigne
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Code Red: The Making of 28 Weeks Later Featurette
The Infected Featurette
Getting Into The Action Featurette
28 Days Later – The Aftermath: Stage 1 “Development” Animated Graphic Novel
28 Days Later – The Aftermath: Stage 3 “Development” Animated Graphic Novel
Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 100 Minutes

The following is from the DVD cover:

“When days turns to weeks… the horror returns.

The terror and devastation unleashed in ’28 Days Later’ picks up six months after the Rage virus has decimated London in this heart-stopping horror sequel.

With order restored and the war against the infection won, the U.S. Army steps in to help repatriate Mainland Britain. But one of the returning refugees carries a terrible secret that threatens to reignite the deadly explosion of bloodlust, carnage and chaos.

With riveting DVD extras and intense footage not seen in theaters, ’28 Weeks Later’ ratchets up the thrills.”

“28 Weeks Later” is rated R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity.

The Movie:
As difficult as it must be to create a satisfying sequel, it must be even tougher when a movie is so far ahead of its time and genre, and you’re trying to make a sequel without the creative team and cast that made it so special. “28 Days Later” director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland personally selected Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“Intacto)” to take up the baton for the sequel to their 2003 post-apocalyptic thriller with the presumption that a sequel would be a no-brainer. In “28 Weeks Later,” Fresnadillo offers an interesting scenario that continues where the last movie left off, focusing on a different set of characters caught in the mayhem that once was Jolly Ol’ England.

The film opens with a group of survivors holed up in a country cottage that’s promptly attacked by a crazed mob of the infected. Robert Carlyle’s Don only barely manages to escape, deserting his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) to the infected in a cowardly move that will haunt him later. 28 weeks later, Don is living in London’s District 1, an island safe zone that has been cleaned-up ready to renew life in the city as bored American soldiers are stationed on rooftops with sniper rifles just in case things go wrong again. Don is soon reunited with his kids Andy and Tammy, who were out of the country during the outbreak, though he doesn’t tell them about his cowardly part in their mother’s death.

Shockingly, Alice has somehow survived being attacked by the infected, because something in her blood makes her immune to the effects. Because she’s still a carrier of the disease, it doesn’t take long for the Rage virus to start infecting people again (with a surprising twist we won’t reveal). By then, it’s already 45 minutes into the movie and we’re as bored as the soldiers, but as the military loses control amidst the ensuing chaos, the situation is elevated to “Code Red” which essentially means killing every single person on the streets whether infected or not. A scientist named Scarlet (Rose Byrne) realizes that Andy and Tammy may have the same immune blood as their mother, so she and a renegade soldier (Jeremy Renner) tries to save them, racing through the streets that pose dangers both from the infected and the overzealous soldiers there to prevent another outbreak.

While the original movie was effectively disturbing in the way it showed how England is leveled by a deadly outbreak, that premise and the location is the only thing retained for the sequel. London once again makes the perfect backdrop for chaos as we see plenty of gorgeous tracking shots over the city roofs and empty streets. The new characters, essentially a bunch of soldiers and a couple kids, aren’t nearly as interesting as the odd group that assembled in the first movie. Most of the performances are fine, but we don’t spend enough time with any of them to establish any strong emotional link, and the lack of focus makes it hard to determine whether the protagonist is supposed to be Don, his kids, Jeremy Renner’s Sgt. Doyle or Rose Byrne’s scientist.

In a way, “28 Weeks Later” is more of a horror movie in the way it uses typical clichés of the survivors being chased through the city, grimly killed off one by one in a way that has very little impact on the viewer or their fellow survivors. Gore fiends will probably be impressed by one or two “splatterrific” set pieces, even if the most impressive one involving a helicopter isn’t particularly original. Likewise, a later scene in which they walk through the darkened London Underground using the infrared scope from a sniper’s rifle was done far more effectively in last year’s “Descent.” Most of the time, things are happening so fast in such dark places that it’s hard to figure out what’s going on.

The only truly shocking moment comes at the height of the chaos when the soldiers start firing on the crowd with the orders to kill everyone. America was barely at war when the original movie made bad guys out of the military, but the sequel’s veiled parallels to the situation in Iraq seem like a poorly timed indictment of men “just following orders” in order to show America’s excessive use of force to deal with situations beyond their control. (Last time I checked, the British are just as much a part of the FUBAR in Iraq as the U.S.)

Other than that, the movie rarely tries to find its own identity, obvious from the fact that it uses the exact same music from the original movie during the more intense scenes in hopes of creating a similar effect. Because the characters haven’t been established in a way that makes us care about them, it’s not nearly as effective. The sequel’s worse offense comes with the lame “cliffhanger” ending that tries to leave things open-ended for a third movie, just in case it’s not obvious that the premise will continue to be milked for all its worth as long as it continues to bring in money.

The Extras:
While the bonus features aren’t as extensive as those seen on many genre DVDs, there’s still a decent selection here. Besides the commentary by Director/Co-Writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Producer/Co-Writer Enrique Lopez Levigne, you’ll find the following:

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Enrique Lopez Lavigne – There are only two deleted scenes. “The Canteen” shows a scene where Rose Byrne as Maj. Scarlet meets Donald Harris and his family much earlier in the story. They chat about the virus and how the military believes it is eradicated (which probably prompts the kids to venture deep into London). “Andy’s Dream” shows the young boy hallucinating about his mother late in the movie when they’re attacked.

Code Red: The Making of 28 Weeks Later Featurette – This is your standard ‘making of’ featurette. They talk in-depth about the challenge of finding a follow-up story to the enormously successful 28 Days Later. The entire cast is interviewed and they again talk about filming in London and making it look deserted.

The Infected Featurette – Those infected with the Rage Virus are highlighted here. They talk about their choreography, the new ‘human’ approach to them, and other such stuff. The cast also talk about how weird it is to work with them.

Getting Into The Action Featurette – Some of the major action scenes are shown here.

28 Days Later – The Aftermath: Stage 1 “Development” Animated Graphic Novel – This is a prequel comic book set to video. It features the development of the rage virus and its initial release into the population. I love comics and I think this was a great idea to try, but I have to admit that I was a bit bored by it.

28 Days Later – The Aftermath: Stage 3 “Development” Animated Graphic Novel – This story follows a survivor during the initial breakout of the virus. It’s a bit better paced that the previous video-comic, but I still prefer hard copies of comics.

The Bottom Line:
If you liked “28 Days Later,” you’ll probably want to see this passable sequel just to see how things get out of control again, though it does presume that most people will have seen the original movie. Either way, it’s hard not to think that this is very much like George Romero’s “Day of the Dead” was to “Dawn of the Dead,” the latter being considered a classic while its sequel was little more than an afterthought done to cash in, without being nearly as satisfying.