Tuesday, May 15, 2007

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Note: This review was originally posted on Myspace. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

"When days turn to weeks..."

"'28 Weeks Later' is that rare sequel that doesn't embarrass the original."
- Sun News (May 10, 2007)

Ultimately, whatever I say here will be pointless if you haven't seen the movie. Just go out and see it, because it's just that incredible. Obviously, your reaction may be vastly different than mine was, but if you're anything like me, then you will be floored by this movie. Maybe even more than you were by 28 Days Later.

A little background: 28 Days Later was released in 2002. It was instantly recognized to be of a caliber much higher than the horror films of its time. In fact, it wasn't strictly a horror movie, as it could also be categorized as an apocalyptic drama or perhaps a sci-fi action flick. Interestingly, it's widely recognized as a zombie movie, without any *technical* zombies, since the monsters are not undead, they are infected living humans. And quite fast, contrary to your traditional shamblers.

5 years later, much to my surprise, the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, shows up almost out of no where (for me, at least). Being such a huge fan of 'Days', I was guaranteed to like 'Weeks', but the movie turned out even better than I hoped it would be. It was incredible. The movie is faithful to 'Days', and the music once again includes top notch post-rock-ish soundscapes, which really adds to the atmosphere.

The major appeal of 'Days', for me, was the post-apocalyptic setting. The scene where Jim wakes up in a hospital and seemingly finds that he's the last person alive on Earth will forever be one of the greatest movie moments of all time. And the rest of the film plays on the characters' [and viewers'] fears of a devastated planet, where the dangerous and mindless 'Infected' vastly outnumber the survivors. Ultimately, by the end of the film, it is discovered that only the island of Britain was devastated, and was quarantined from the rest of the world to prevent the spread of infection of the 'Rage Virus'.

In 'Weeks', despite a heavy dose of post-apocalyptic scenery, there is no illusion that the entire world has been devastated. This is after the infection has been [seemingly] eliminated, all the Infected having starved to death weeks ago. Survivors are gradually being admitted into Britain in an army-protected safe zone as the first steps toward recovery from the devastation the pandemic caused.

What struck me as interesting was how 'Weeks' managed to sort of be a prequel as well as a sequel to 'Days', simultaneously, while still taking place after the events of 'Days'. Granted, it's no prequel in any official sense, but where 'Days' dealt with the period after the virus had caused most of the damage it was to cause, 'Weeks' simultaneously deals with the period of recovery after the infection has been eradicated, *and* the period directly after initial infection, when the outbreak spreads through the community. How can this possibly be accomplished? Well, it's quite simple - the virus, having thought to have been eradicated, is transmitted via a carrier showing no symptoms, and a brand new outbreak occurs. True, the second outbreak wreaks havoc over a much smaller population than the first, but in 'Weeks' you get to see the kind of carnage that's only described in 'Days' - like when Mark (Selena's original partner) describes how the virus spread through a crowd of people - you get to see it happen in 'Weeks'.

So if the strength of 'Days' was the passive desperation of a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, what then is the strength of 'Weeks'? Well, the strength of 'Weeks' is the utterly intense active desperation and sheer terror of a community gone to hell, with the Infected suddenly cropping up all around you. What do you do when all your friends and neighbors begin to attack you in an incurable and mindless rage? What do you do when the military that was supposed to protect you suddenly decides that it's safer to simply eradicate you, rather than take the risk of checking to see if you're Infected first?

But this movie has even more. It's a very personal story, about a father who abandons his wife to save his own life (to be fair, they both would have died, if he hadn't), to later be reunited with his son and daughter. It's also a tale of import to the entire world, about a possible immunity to the virus that exists in the genes of one or more survivors who are infected, but do not show symptoms. Should these people be saved, so that they can be studied, and a cure developed, or is it better to kill them right away, since they can still infect others?

As far as the pacing of the story is concerned, the movie opens with an incredibly intense sequence involving a group of people holed up in a house, hiding from the Infected, much like what you might see in 'Days'. The majority of the movie takes place 28 weeks after the initial outbreak, and time is taken to introduce the important characters and the general setting of the survivors' colony in Britain. Once the new outbreak occurs, though, all hell breaks loose, and the rest of the movie tracks a handful of survivors just trying to reach safety, while avoiding the Infected and the equally indiscriminate military. I tell you, it's one hell of an intense journey. And I loved every minute of it.

As far as the ending goes, I won't spoil it, but the door is wide open for a third installment in the series, which I understand has already been planned (with the expected title of 28 Months Later). I sincerely hope that the time is taken to make 'Months' just as good as 'Weeks' and 'Days' were. If it is, then the 28 Trilogy could very well be one of the greatest horror trilogies ever created, perhaps surpassed only by the outstanding and unequalled Alien Trilogy. And even if not, 'Days' and 'Weeks' will still stand as two of the most incredible zombie films ever made. They have already made their mark in my life, that's for sure.

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