28 Weeks Later (2007)

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau, Catherine McCormack, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots, Idris Elba

We finally have an answer to the question, “What do you do with a problem like Maria?” Apparently, if you’re the U.S. Military in a zombie movie, you carpet bomb the crap out of her. During the original “Infected” epidemic, Don (Robert Carlyle) abandons his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) and the nice family who allowed them to take shelter in their cottage when they come under attack. 28 weeks later, the epidemic is over, but the United States is overseeing the reintegration of the British population. It should feel like everything is getting back to normal, but it can’t as long as they have sharpshooters watching their every move, just in case. When Don’s kids, Tammy and Andy (Imogen Poots & Mackintosh Muggleton) decide to take a joyride back to their old home, they discover their mother there, very much alive. When the Military brings the three of them back, Don is both grateful to see his wife again and terrified of what she’ll say. If only someone had mentioned to him that she’s a carrier for the Rage virus…

Newly revived, the virus spreads like wildfire. The Military only makes things worse by trying to quarantine the uninfected. The poor souls are merely sitting ducks. With time becoming a factor, the military panics and orders “Code Red,” which means the execution of anything that moves, infected or not. This leads to another great use of the Odessa Steps sequence from “Battleship Potemkin,” as the snipers fire indiscriminately at men, women and children. One of them, Doyle (Jeremy Renner), finds he cannot go along with his orders, and elects to help out as many people as he can, including Tammy and Andy. Never for a moment is there any doubt who is meant to survive the events of “28 Weeks Later,” as a great deal of importance is placed on the kids being able to safely get past both the Infected and the Military, particularly by Scarlet (Rose Byrne) who through her medical research believes that one or the both of them might be carrying the same recessive gene that made their mother a carrier of the virus. She thinks that they might hold the answer to a cure, and she is willing to die for that belief. Unfortunately, the nature of a carrier means that, while they won’t succumb to the Rage themselves, they can pass it on to others just as easily. Indeed their fate is rather open-ended, as is often the case with zombie movies.

“28 Weeks Later,” like most sequels, is inherently inferior to the original, but it’s a decent flick on its own. Like its predecessor, it is effective at showing what levels of madness that Man can be driven to once survival has become an issue. It’s also very good at depicting heroism in its truest form. The word “hero” gets thrown around a lot, almost to the point of losing all meaning. The selflessness displayed by both Scarlet and Doyle is really quite beautiful to watch. Speaking of Doyle, actor Jeremy Renner has become quite the action star as of late, and I don’t think it too farfetched to say that his role here helped him prepare for “The Avengers.” The way the opening sequence played out, speaking of heroics, I was equal parts confused and concerned as to whether or not the cowardly Don was being built up as our main character. As much as I like actor Robert Carlyle, I couldn’t see myself getting behind this guy the way I did with Jim in “28 Days Later.”

One thing that “28 Weeks Later” does manage which “28 Days Later” dared not try for is to make the audience question whether or not the Military might actually have been doing the right thing. A sobering thought, but considering where the movie leaves us, not out of the realm of possibility. I’ve heard of a third entry to the series being teased about for some time now. I presume they’ll want to call that one “28 Months Later.” Before today, my reaction to that would likely have been “Why?” After watching these movies back-to-back, I think “Bring it on!” is more appropriate.

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