||One doesn’t expect a great deal of intelligence in a film about bloodthirsty folk, infected by a “rage virus,” who chase the unaffected with the intent of chomping them to bits. But this sequel to the hit “28 Days Later” is based on a premise, and filled with characters, that are a lot dumber than they needed to be.
The idea is that after 28 weeks, the ghouls who nearly depopulated England have themselves died off of starvation, and a NATO-authorized force of American troops have arrived to seal off a section of London where those free of the ailment can begin resettlement. One of those brought to Dog’s Island in the British capital is Don (Robert Carlyle), who—as we see in a prologue—ran away like a coward from the cottage where he was holed up in the original assault, leaving his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) to die at the jaws of the marauders, along with all the other people who’d taken shelter in the remote house. Happily his children, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots), were away on a school trip on the continent when the epidemic struck, and now they’re returned from Spain to join their Dad in a high-rise apartment in the so-called “green zone” that none of the residents are supposed to leave (the rest of the metropolis still filled with rotting corpses, untouched debris and unknown dangers).
Now you might immediately ask: why would one begin resettlement plan in such a desolate urban jungle, rather than in some secluded area that could be easily controlled? Why, for the sake of “The World, The Flesh and the Devil” visuals of abandoned streets and empty landmarks, of course. There’s no other reasonable explanation.
Of course, once the premise is set, things have to go wrong, very wrong. So it’s not surprising that the U.S. army’s security in London’s post-infection “green zone” is no better than that in Baghdad’s post-invasion one. Not only do the troops under the command of General Stone (Idris Elba), including regular fella sniper Doyle (Jeremy Renner), allow Andy and Tammy to escape the protected area and make their way back to their old London house, but they then bring back to the zone not only the kids, but Alice—who had unaccountably made her way back home after being abandoned by Don (no explanation of how she escaped certain death is ever given) and has been living in hiding there ever since (on what she subsisted is never indicated, either).
And that’s not all: they leave Alice completely alone in the medical unit, strapped to a gurney, and then don’t notice that Don sneaks in to see her. Naturally, bad stuff results, since she’s a carrier of the infection though unaffected by it herself, and she immediately turns hubby into a raving ghoul, starting the whole process over again. Of course, the military forces, try as they might to contain the renewed outbreak by killing all the re-settlers, can’t get them all, so soon there are bands of the infected running about the city and chasing our heroes—Andy, Tammy, Doyle and Scarlet (Rose Byrne), a doctor who’s trying to save the children and get them out of the country in the hope that their blood will carry their mother’s immunity to the plague and serve to develop an antidote to it. Needless to say, the now-gruesome Don turns up whenever the script demands a shock to menace the kids and their protectors, and in his absence General Stone’s troops can be relied on to show up and threaten them. As if all that weren’t enough, there’s a “twist” ending that couldn’t be more obvious—or more threatening in terms of a third installment.
What’s unclear about all this is why we should have the slightest concern for Andy and Tammy at all, since they’re the nitwits who causes all the trouble by using their first day back in England to break the rules and thereby bring about the renewal of the epidemic. Of course if they hadn’t done that, there would have been no movie, but that would have been a blessing.
“28 Weeks Later” was co-written and directed by Juan Carlo Fresnadillo, best known for the offbeat but mediocre “Intacto,” and unfortunately his helming is no better than his scripting. Pretty much everything in the picture is a mindless blur, the visual cacophony accentuated by jittery, hand-held cinematography by Enrique Chediak that also overuses extreme close-ups and crazy-quilt editing that, together with the use of strobe lighting effects (and some particularly ugly “Blair Witch”-like night vision sequences), makes for a hundred minutes that irritate the eyes something fierce. (There’s plenty of bloodletting, of course, but the murkiness makes it less offensive than it might have been.) One’s ears are tested, too, by the blaring music and sound effects.
As to the cast, youngsters Muggleton and Poots come off best, especially the former, whose tight-jawed imperturbability is sometimes reminiscent of Michael Baldwin in the original “Phantasm.” (Can’t you just imagine “Muggleton and Poots” as a bad vaudeville act at an English music hall, or the name of a London boot shop?) Playing an ordinary Joe, Renner doesn’t fulfill the promise of “Dahmer,” though he does have a nifty farewell scene, and Byrne is annoyingly stiff as the femme medico. As for Carlyle, he plays things too broadly even before he turns, and afterward he chews up everything in sight literally as well as figuratively.
There’s a ready audience for “28 Weeks Later,” so it will probably do well. But even for a zombie-ghoul movie, its idiocy is beyond the pale.