28 Weeks Later Review

The Film

As I have written before, I found 28 days Later to be two thirds of a good film. Mainly it was Alex Garland's writing but even the reliable Christopher Ecclestone was off form and good ideas were squandered in a dodgy conclusion. Much better, to my mind, was Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's Intacto, a superb thriller that used the great Max Von Sydow in a role that suited him and explored some original ideas about luck and cyphers. 28 Weeks Later is Fresnadillo's second feature film, directed after a six year wait and working from Danny Boyle's original film in terms of location and monsters. It is a different kind of a film to Boyle's with better and more intense action and a finer insight into the human race. In short, I find it a much better film.

Taking up after the initial virus has overcome the British Isles and the US has led troops into the country to eliminate the infection, the sequel sets itself in a Great Britain being re-constructed and re-populated. The focus of the film is centred on Robert Carlyle and his family. Carlyle has survived the initial infection of the country but only at the cost of deserting his wife to the virus infuriated living dead. More happily his children were abroad when the virus came, and it is only now after six months that they can return to a quarantined London as part of the first efforts to re-settle the country. When they are reunited, Carlyle tells them that their mother is dead but the kids refuse to leave their memories of her and sneak out of the fortified city centre to visit the family home. Tracked by the military they discover their mother hiding there and they realise that their father has lied to them. Despite being bitten by the infected, the mother has survived but as a carrier of the virus. When she has this confirmed, after capture by the troops, she passes the virus to the cowardly dad with a Judas' kiss. Soon the capital is overrun and the infected and the clean can't be separated so the military's Code Red program is readied to rid the capital of all life. Can the children make it out before they are eradicated or before their infected father finds them?

Like Intacto before it, with its blindfolded chases through forests, Fresnadillo brings fantastic tempo and dramatic charge to the film as we follow the family in their desperate fight to survive. Having fine actors like Carlyle, as a zombie compelled to chase his children, and McCormack, in a small part, gives the film an unpredictable exposition, and the gentle references to the real world reconstruction of Iraq make this a far more compelling film than the original. Fresnadillo takes the scenes of a deserted London from the first film and plays on this idea more as he creates a familiar country decimated by conflict. He shows us soldiers ordered to shoot indiscriminately as they can no longer be sure who is on their side or not, and we see their commanders struggle to find order in the chaos when they are in over their heads. We see the "liberated" Britons quarantined for their own safety only to become sitting ducks to the threat that faces them. The film matches this allegorical realism with oodles of steadicam, but the DV look of the original is toned down to make the film a little more stylised in its execution. The director also brings a sense of what genre fans want as the film is bloodier, more shocking and with development of existing Zombie moments like Dawn of the Dead's helicopter decapitations - here a helicopter becomes a threshing machine against the onslaught of the infected hordes. This sequence is at once graphic and awesome, and it will definitely become a classic in modern horror.

The film, like Boyle's recent Sunshine, feels like it has lost important character background which would explain the action better. This means that some moments rely on implied logic or momentum rather than clear exposition. It also seems that Fresnadillo has monkeyed with the script as he went along instead of having a much more clearly realised screenplay at the beginning of the project. These failings mean that the film could have benefited from more depth and layered development, but it instead settles for being an effective entertainment. Personally, I'll settle for that as 28 Weeks Later is an oasis in a desert of good 21st century horror films, and it is an excellent action and chase film to boot. After all, what are zombie films other than chase films where the characters run from death and Fresnadillo proves he knows this better than most. More thrilling and scarier than the original with a better grasp of humanity, this is one of the best films of the year.

The Disc

28 Weeks Later is presented on a dual layer disc with computer designed animated menus. The main feature is anamorphic and framed at the ratio of 1.85:1 which was the original aspect ratio at the cinema. The transfer is excellent with superb handling of colour and shade and razor sharpness in the image. The darker scenes in the film have perfect contrast levels and this is a real pleasure to watch. Similarly the 5.1 surround mix is created with real skill and the sense of atmosphere throughout is evoked through a bursting and rumbling LFE track and excellent mixing of the music. Effects and dialogue are mixed sensitively and rear effects are carefully positioned in the mix whilst the voices come from the correct speakers throughout. This a great soundtrack with no distortion, great dimension and perfect balancing of music, voices and effects. The feature also comes with subtitles and an audio description track.
There is a commentary with producer Enrique López Lavigne and Fresnadillo speaking in English and helpfully subtitled for deaf viewers. The director's English is the stronger and the main basis for their comments is the efforts they made to move the film on from the original and keep the realistic edge. The two of them are quite serious in the commentary and this makes it informative rather than entertaining. Their commentary extends to two deleted scenes, one from the beginning which introduces Rose Byrne's character to the family in the canteen, and one for the very end of the film which adds depth to the children's ongoing survival whilst creating a sense of mystery about an anti-virus. The canteen scene is prosaic and easily missed, and, as Fresnadillo admits, the longer ending is a strong idea which just didn't quite work when it was shot.

There are three short featurettes on the making of the film with interviews with director, cast and crew, and Danny Boyle and Andrew Macdonald. The featurettes look at Fresnadillo's re-imagining of the sequel, the choreography of the zombie hordes, and the management of the action scenes in the film. They are all bits of fluff really but it's nice to see the intense intellectual Fresnadillo sat next to the effervescent confident Boyle and to hear from Carlyle about how different the two are - Boyle the enthusiast, Fresnadillo the humanist. We get the thetrical trailer before two short cartoons inspired by the original film top the package off. The first cartoon, Development, is a proper comic book short with speech bubbles and gridded pictures which give the piece quite an impact as we understand how the rage virus got developed in the first place. The second film, Decimation, is far more dull and uninspired with more of a manga approach than the first piece.


One of the few times in recent years that I have watched an English language film and thought it so good that I wanted to watch it again straight away. 28 Weeks Later is one of the best films that I have seen this year, and it is a real fillip simply to have Fresnadillo behind a camera again. This disc from Fox is an excellent visual and audio presentation with some good extras. If you like a bit of horror and love the thrill of the chase then 28 Weeks Later is intelligent stuff just for you.

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