As the title obviously suggests, “28 Weeks Later” is the sequel to Danny Boyle’s widely successful zombie flick “28 Days Later”. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over the directing reins and goes to great lengths to capture the same frantic style and pacing that helped make the first movie so unique. Mission accomplished! “28 Weeks Later” does something few sequels are able to do. It gives us a better film than its predecessor. Make no mistake, I really liked “28 Days Later”. But for me it lost its way in the third act which ultimately hurt the film a bit. The sequel steers clear of that and the result is a terrifying action horror movie that is relentlessly brutal but thoroughly entertaining.
I’m sure you remember the premise of the first film. A radical animal rights group storms a laboratory in England and inadvertently unleash a highly contagious Rage virus. 28 days later London and the surrounding areas are abandoned with the exception of Rage-infected people running the streets. That brings us to the sequel where many things have happened in the 28 days since the outbreak. The infected are believed to have died of starvation. A U.S. led NATO force has come in, quarantined an area, and created a safe zone for resettlement. It’s here that Don (Robert Carlyle) is reunited with his daughter Tammy (Imogen Poots) and young son Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton).
“28 Weeks Later” is smart with its storytelling. The movie opens up with a brief but brilliantly horrific scene that shows Don narrowly escaping a raging group of infected. But in order to escape Don makes a highly questionable decision and I found myself quick to judge him for it. But in a very subtle way the movie asks the audience what they would do in that situation. And of course the question grows more complicated when we learn there are children involved. The film forces several of its characters to make important yet difficult choices. Jeremy Renner plays Sgt. Doyle, an Army Sniper forced to choose between his superior’s orders and his moral convictions. Idris Elba plays General Stone that has to make a choice that will either save or end hundreds of innocent lives. Harold Perrineau plays a helicopter pilot called on to make some critical decisions by his best friend Doyle. It’s a movie of tough choices.
But c’mon, this is a zombie horror movie so you know things go bad at some point. I don’t want to give anything away but the Rage virus gets loose in the safe zone in a very surprising way. Just as in the first film, the infected are brutally vicious and ravenous. They’re genuinely frightening as they relentlessly pursue their potential meals. They run at breakneck speeds, burst through windows and doors, and spew gallons of infectious blood. They are pretty grisly sights and Fresnadillo doesn’t shy away from the gore. The infected transformation scenes are gruesome and the various zombie head shots, decapitations, and torchings aren’t for the faint of heart. Yet the graphic effects feel right at home here.
“28 Weeks Later” doesn’t stop to smell the roses. The story moves at a frantic pace with tension and intensity playing bigger roles than genuine horror movie scares. But the entire concept is laid out so well that there are moments that are utterly frightening. This is helped by some deeply committed performances. Renner is really good and convincing as is Elba. I was also impressed by the performances of Muggleton and Poots as the two kids who play a major role in the story. I also have to mention Rose Byrne’s solid work as a military doctor who makes saving the kids her top priority.
I expected “28 Weeks Later” to basically be exactly like the first film and that’s not a bad thing. But I certainly didn’t expect it to be a better movie that grabbed me early and kept me on the edge of my seat all the way to it’s fantastic final shot. Fresnadillo perfectly matches the style and tone of Danny Boyle’s first film while also making this movie his own. It’s much more straightforward but equally intelligent. “28 Weeks Later” is a wild ride and as far as horror movies go this one was right up my alley.