Friday, June 01, 2007

28 Weeks Later

"Step 1: kill the infected. Step 2: containment. if containment cannot be done then, step 3: extermination "

Written By: Rowan Joffe & Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Directed By: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Catherine McCormack

My rating: 3/5

As sequels go, 28 Weeks Later came as a surprising treat. Though not received particularly kindly by all critics, it has proven to be a successful successor to Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. Set 28 weeks after the events of the first film, the US military are tentatively repopulating England after it was ravaged by a zombie- making disease known as "the rage".
From the outset, it is firmly established that the audience is in for an intense 90 minutes of almost continuous peril. Whether it is the fact that the two main protagonists are children who, over the course of the film, lose both their parents, or perhaps the fact that the familiar landscape of London is a bit TOO familiar, this film really knows how to frighten its audience. Not just by delivering jumps and horrible gore, but by genuinely placing the audience within the pandemonium. Because the film becomes so catastrophic in the second half, the element of desperate running tends to make the viewer tired and relieved to be out of the nightmare of the past hour and a half. I mean this in a very positive way. The sight of the end credit made me feel like I had woken from a nightmare and found to my relief that it was, in fact, just a nightmare. This is the power of good cinema. Of course, this is nothing new, as those of you who have seen the first film will know. The incessant feeling of running for your life is traumatic and the unrelenting presence of the infected people make for an intense cinematic experience, to say the least.
Despite a number of very silly plot problems and contradictions, 28 Weeks Later easily provides its audience with a satisfying sequel to what has become an almost universally praised modern classic. The performances from the children tugged at the heart-strings and the infected were as ravenous as in the first film, but some of the main grown-up cast were lacking. There was a sense of aesthetic pleasure over acting skill, but this tends to be the nature of horror films. This doesn't jar too much though and overall it doesn't detract from the otherwise high quality of the film.
It may sound like a strange thing to say but what makes these films especially frightening is their mature and realistic portrayal of what might happen in a very hypothetical situation. On this level, the reaction of the military, the spread of the disease and the reactions of the children to the horror of it all was successful. At no time did I find the solace of the knowledge that this is set in a fantasy world. The film ensures that it all feels real and takes care to exploit the familiar tourist areas of London to remind us all that we've all been here and visited these places.
On that note, the special effects must be commended. To create the desolate London city must have been pain-staking but but worked beautifully and created a great sense of fear, tapping into the part of us that fears nuclear war or chemical attacks.
Overall, its not a perfect film, but it certainly deserves a look and turned out far better than was generally expected. Worth the price of your ticket.

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