28 Weeks Later is the rare sequel that is actually better than the film that preceded it. Bloodier and more vicious than 28 Days Later, Weeks doesn’t fall apart in its third act the way Days did. 28 Weeks Later picks up almost exactly where Days left off, though there is a graphic novel produced by Fox Atomic Comic called “28 Days Later: The Aftermath” which details what happened between the two movies and the Rage virus as well. At 28 Weeks Later‘s beginning, we meet a group of people hiding out in a boarded-up house from the Rage infected. Everything soon goes to hell but it is during Hades that the viewer first realizes how improved Weeks is in comparison to Days. In Weeks, the audience is given someone to care about, a family in fact, whose father Don (Robert Carlyle) is the most sympathetic and “real” character in the entire film. He is forced to make a hard decision early in the film, a very human decision, the only logical one available to him. The one all the people in the boarded up house are there for. Self-preservation. This theme is what both films are about, staying alive, but Weeks in its second act soon becomes about keeping two very unique individuals alive.
Unlike Days, 28 Weeks Later has a military element that is integral to its plot. Highly trained snipers, scientists, helicopters, fighter jets, all inhabit this film and are effective to varying degrees. Weeks‘ story is simple. The Rage virus has been contained, part of England has been quarantined 27 weeks after the initial outbreak and on the 28 week, re-population into a “safe zone” is commencing. Two of these re-populating people are Don’s children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton). The United States military are gatekeepers and regulators of this quarantine and inexitably, that quarantine is breached.
This is where 28 Weeks Later falters second. I’ll get to where is falters first later. The father, Don, is a maintenance worker of some kind and logically has a pass-key that lets him into certain areas of the quarantine complex to keep things running. That fine but why and how in God’s (or an awake screenwriter’s) name is he given an access key to every door, everywhere. Yes, that’s right. A civilian with no military clearance once-so-ever is given an access key that gets him into top secret, highly sensitive and dangerous areas freely. There are no security monitors, no guards in the areas he walks into, nothing. It makes no sense, none. No wait, actuality it makes the same sense as when a 6’2, 200 + pound, black leather, sunglass wearing Terminator walks into the Skynet military complex during a time of crisis in the third act of Terminator 3 with machine and grenade gun in hand, isn’t stopped at the gate or by guards anywhere and isn’t every questioned. Just walks right in with another person (John Connor) who has absolutely no security clearance during a top secret situation affecting computers throughout America. Or when John Anderton still has access and walks right back into police headquarters after he is declared a fugitive in Minority Report. Yes, I’ve got it now. That is the sense that it makes. There is another infection rampant in 28 Weeks Later besides the Rage virus, plot idiocy.
The plot fault in Minority Report can be forgiven because it is its singular plot hick-up. The ones in 28 Weeks Later just keep escalating. Don’t get me wrong though, I am one of those people that can see the forest through the trees. I see the great zombie/horror/action movie underneath all faults and I see what this movie achieves in its genre(s). Speaking of faults, let me get back to the first one. I won’t mention the identity of the person or the circumstances surrounding them but it was almost like a cop-out, an invalidation of what transpired in the film’s first fifteen minutes. That aside, this person has been bitten by the Rage infected and hasn’t turned into a killing machine like everyone else. This person seems to have a natural immunity to the Rage virus. I say seems because the first fault is about to occur. You have a potential cure for a deadly virus staring you in the face and what does Scarlet (Rose Bryne), the ranking officer with concern to the virus, do? Nothing. She mentions it to the commander of the quarantine; Stone (Idris Elba) one time then drops it. What’s she been dreaming about since she got to Europe and the infected zone, the answer to all of the death and rotting corpses in the buildings and streets surrounding the safe zone and she doesn’t: call her scientific boss in the U.S. about her discovery, go over Stone’s head and inform his boss, put in a emergency call to Washington, inform the press, take a massive amount of living samples from the carrier/host for storage and analysis (for possible synthesis and duplication) or send a single email informing someone of the value of the person she’s discovered. Hell no. The military doesn’t even put cameras on the carrier to monitor them or extra guards around the observation cage. There is one guard for the most valuable, unique human in the entire country. That’s it and that is almost completely forgiven (almost) because of the gruesome R, NC-17 death that occurs because of these Bizzaro World (Htrae for the uninitiated) security measures and complete lack of primate intelligence. Let me tell you, it’s one of the most intense death scenes since “the trailer scene” in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes and approaches (but not quite) the sadism and viciousness of the first semi-kill in Wolf Creek. I was surprised and impressed. This and some of the scenes that followed raise this “zombie” movie above the likes of the disappointing Land of the Dead, the Resident Evil franchise up to this point, Shaun of the Dead (though that was a horror/comedy), Undead, the Day of the Dead remake and others I am probably forgetting as while.
Case and point, the sniper sequence. This scene is fantastic. You see the snipers at the beginning of the film and think they’ll never be used. They’re used alright and quite effectively I might say. But how do the Rage infected get themselves all the way up through a building, in some cases, thirty to fifty floors up, and attack the snipers? Don’t think about that, turn your brain off. Why would a highly trained sniper break orders and abandon his post (that’s desertion and dereliction of duty by the way, Court Marshallable offenses) only to descend from his relatively safe perch into the belly of the beast? Does that make sense career or situation-wise? Don’t think about that either; just enjoy the scene and the carnage.
Other plot faults pop-up like why don’t the soldiers communicate with each over their radios and identify themselves so that they are fired upon but at a certain point you stop questioning and just go with the film because its so well shot by director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the tension is never fully released and there is always something happening or about to happen. People die in 28 Weeks Later whom you don’t expect to die and in manners that are well worth the price of admission, benefiting the film as it keeps you guessing, making you realize that no one is safe. This is an achievement since you can usually tell from the actor playing a character in certain movies, like Jessica Biel in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who has been ear-marked as the “survivor” guy or the “survivor” girl (thanks Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon).
28 Weeks Later could have been a film that successfully crossed many film genres (family drama, horror, etc.) and went down in film history as one of the all time greats like Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Because of plot faults and holes greater than its predecessor however, it is merely a great zombie movie, a superior entry in the genre and a highly entertaining film.