28 Weeks Later (UK - DVD R2)
Scott McKenzie tries his best not to use the z-word while reviewing this sequel...
28 Weeks Later begins with a small group of people hiding out in a cottage from the infected people outside. It’s not long before the infected attack and the survivors are quickly picked off one by one. Only Donald (Robert Carlyle) escapes unharmed, but his survival is at the cost of his wife, who he had to leave behind. This sequence is set some point during the time of 28 Days Later and during the credit sequence we fast-forward six months to a time when the virus appears to have been eradicated from the United Kingdom and the US army is beginning the repatriation process. Donald is reunited with his children, who were out of the country during the outbreak, but their arrival sets off a chain of events that can only lead to re-infection for everyone in London.
Set in the same world as 28 Days Later, this isn’t a direct sequel to its predecessor. Taking the Romero route, we get the story of a different set of characters that are thrown into a similar situation. The strong theme of this movie is family and we see how the infection affects the father, mother and children in different ways. In actual fact, the events of 28 Weeks Later are more of a sequel to the pre-credits opening sequence than to Danny Boyle’s original movie. The setup has more in common with Land of the Dead, whereby the oasis created by the powers-that-be becomes their prison when the bad guys arrive, but the motivations of the central characters are very different.
The writer-director team of 28 Days Later, Alex Garland and Danny Boyle, have returned as executive producers on this sequel and handed the reins over to Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. They haven’t exactly taken a step back though, with Boyle lending a helping hand as second unit director on some sequences. Composer John Murphy’s haunting music makes another appearance to ensure there is clear consistency in the composition of the two movies.
The opening sequence sets a standard that continues throughout the whole movie. For the first few minutes we’re introduced to the characters, their relationships and how they are struggling to deal with the situation they’ve found themselves in. Then, almost without warning, we’re thrown into a very fast-paced and brutal action sequence. This is a template for the main body of the movie, which switches from characterisation to action at the halfway point, and it is the action that sets 28 Weeks Later apart from its lower-budget predecessor. Once we have invested just enough emotion in these well-developed characters, they’re suddenly running for their lives from the infected and the people who are supposed to protect them.
Where 28 Days Later focused primarily on keeping the audience in suspense, the sequel is more of a straightforward survival action movie. The combination of handheld camera work, great special effects and that score make for some of the most exciting sequences I have watched in a long time. Two words: helicopter massacre. Watch 28 Weeks Later and you’ll know what I mean. As a Brit, it’s also good to see a proper action movie set in one of our cities. We’re all so used to seeing New York or LA get trashed, it’s refreshing to witness somewhere more familiar get firebombed.
The action isn’t at the expense of character development. The characters are all well fleshed-out in the relatively short running time, in particular Robert Carlyle’s character, who has to deal with the guilt of leaving his wife at the same time as welcoming his children into their new home. We also get to see how the virus affects members of the family, with one particular infected person being more than just a flesh-eating madman.
28 Weeks Later is better than its predecessor. There, I’ve said it. I love 28 Days Later, as do many of the writers on this site, but the larger budget has allowed the sequel to up the ante on the scope and what can be shown on the screen, but not at the expense of putting believable characters in believable situations. 28 Weeks Later does exactly what any good sequel should do— it reminds you what was good about the original but at the same time develops the themes and expands the world inside the movie to make it more interesting and exciting. Unfortunately for Danny Boyle, he’s got a lot to live up to if he decides to return for 28 Months Later.
The feature has a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. 28 Weeks Later has a very similar visual style to 28 Days Later, with shaky camera work and high contrast during certain scenes. The picture is a little grainy at times, which may be intentional in an attempt to replicate the style of the original. I didn’t see this at the cinema so I can’t say for sure, although it does lack detail in long wide shots. That said, it doesn’t get in the way of an enjoyable visual experience.
Dolby Digital 5.1 is the only audio option (other than the Stereo audio descriptive track) and it is as clear as you would expect. The music is very important to the movie and sometimes drowns out the dialogue and effects, but this is intentional to increase tension. During key sequences the music builds as the infection spreads, which is neat and subtle trick. The effects and dialogue are all at the appropriate level in relation to the music so I’d say this is a pretty faithful transfer of the original soundtrack to disc.
A commentary track is supplied by the director and his co-writer/producer Enrique Lopez Lavigne. They go into a lot of detail about the making of the film but their conversations never drop into a blinding level of technicality. They state that they wanted to create a vision of London similar to the setting of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children Of Men and discuss their collaborations with Alex Garland on the screenplay and Danny Boyle on the filming of key sequences, most notably the opening scenes.
Two deleted scenes with optional commentary are included, but as is almost always the case their omission was necessary to keep the story moving along. The ‘Making of’ featurette includes a lot of talking head interviews, most interesting of all are the discussions from Danny Boyle about the alternative ideas they had for a sequel. They may not have chosen to produce it, but I’d love to read the screenplay for the Escape from New York-esque story of SAS troops trying to get the Prime Minister out of London during the first outbreak.
‘The Infected’ featurette is a spotlight for the extras and the choreographers who planned their intricate movements. ‘Getting into the Action’ shows the filmmakers talking about the fact that 28 Weeks Later is more action-focused than its predecessor, and their intention to use handheld cameras to give the impression of a ‘horror documentary’. In addition to the theatrical trailer, this decent set of extras is rounded off with two episodes of 28 Days Later: Aftermath, an animated comic book written by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland that goes into more detail about the genesis of the virus and the first outbreak.
28 Weeks Later is better than its predecessor. There, I’ve said it again. Whether you’re into action, horror, suspense or just want to see London get firebombed, this is the movie for you. The transfer is as good as you would expect and the extras provide interesting details about the making of the film and highlight the obvious passion everyone has involved for the project, which makes me even more excited about a possible sequel. And I didn’t even use the word ‘zombie’.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 10th September 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Feature Commentary, Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary, Code Red: The Making Of 28 Weeks Later, The Infected Featurette, Getting Into The Action Featurette, 28 Days Later: Aftermath - 2 Animated Comic Books, Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Cast: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Amanda Walker, Catherine McCormack
Genre: Action, Horror and Thriller
Length: 101 minutes
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