RogerBW's Blog

28 Weeks Later 08 November 2022

2007 horror, dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Robert Carlyle, Imogen Poots; IMDb / allmovie. The zombies are still out.

After the huge success of 28 Days Later there was clearly a need for a sequel. But everyone involved in the original made their excuses and left: Boyle, Garland and Murphy all said they had to work on Sunshine, and everyone else had other projects, teaching the cat to dance, dealing with all the newts, whatever. (Though Rose Byrne, who has a substantial part in this, also has a substantial part in Sunshine.) Apparently Boyle came back for some second-unit work and may have directed the opening sequence, but it's clear that whatever worked in Days it wasn't going to be replicated here.

But that doesn't stop Fresnadillo, whose second film this was, from trying to copy things without really understanding them. Shakycam? We'll use more shakycam! And lots of short shots with quick cuts. And a flashing light as the only illumination. This stuff's easy, right?

I wonder about ease. In an early shot we see an aircraft approaching London City Airport, landing, then taxiing to a stand at what's very obviously Stansted (a much larger airport with multiple piers). In those few shots we see, meant to be the same aircraft, a 737 with winglets, another 737 without winglets, and what I think is a 757. None of those aircraft is capable of landing at City, with its 4,000-foot runway. All of them have been painted (or CGI-ed) in a weird non-livery livery, with a plain white body, plain blue tail, and no registration marks. This all seems as though it would be a lot more effort than simply renting an actual BAe 146, painting or CGI-ing it, landing it at City as the first flight of the day, and having a bunch of extras get out.

But the real problem for me is that the people organising things here are supposed to be not a few panicky survivors, as in the first film, but actual serious military medics, experts in infectious disease, with all the survivors' stories from the depopulation of Britain to guide them. They aren't learning about this stuff for the first time; they should know how it works. And yet: they wear only standard surgical masks rather than full hazmat gear; they have even less by way of biosecurity precautions than the lab in the first film (which in my headcanon is a shoestring operation run by some private company that bribed the inspectors to go away); they have…

Look, this was being made in 2006. The Green Zone in Iraq had been established by this point. There was an example of a military base with substantial civilian presence, in the middle of hostile territory, right there to steal from, but Fresnadillo didn't bother. We know these people are worried about infection, because they have a contingency plan set up for what happens if there is an outbreak; but it's a really stupid plan.

Where are the drills? ("If you are not infected, put one hand on your head and keep it there.") Given that a crowd of victims can quickly let one zombie make a whole bunch more, where are the shelter-in-place orders to keep the victims split up and reduce the rate of conversion? Why does only one sniper show the slightest hesitation about opening up on civilians? Once the Isle of Dogs is lost, what's the point of firebombing it? Just get out the people you can and leave, which you're already doing, and wait another 28 weeks until all the remaining zombies have starved again! It all feels like criticising "the military" without actually knowing anything about what the military does.

(Also, why are people so keen to re-settle the UK? The rest of the world is still functioning; why would you rush back to three tower blocks where they're proud of having electricity all day? There aren't any particularly special natural resources here that are worth exploiting, and anything else could happen anywhere… If people want to return to their homes, wouldn't they wait until their homes are available to return to?)

But it's even more stupid than that, with one good idea: the relatively asymptomatic carrier, who can be brought inside unknowing while still being packed full of virus. And since she's the wife of a guy who abandoned her to what he thought was her certain death, you'd think there might be something to be said about broken families, about mending (or not) relationships, about… no, he kisses her, he's infected, he instantly murderises her and then everyone else he can find.

She escaped from the zombie horde before. That implies that the instant one of them bit her and she became infected, they stopped attacking her. So why does hubby, similarly infected, kill her? Surely not because the director likes the idea of violence against a woman who's tied down, and couldn't think of anything else for her to do in the story?

And then it's fight fight fight, flee flee flee, "Andy! Andy! No! Andy! No! No! Andy!". You cannot escape from a nerve gas attack by hiding in a car, even if you close the vents and put a scarf over your mouth. (Also most of the gases tend to be colourless and odourless, not a billowing white cloud.) There's a helicopter as lawnmower gag that recalls a scene cut from Dawn of the Dead but in reality would almost certainly lead to major rotor damage if not an immediate crash.

But really where this film loses any contact with the good stuff of the original is in its message: unlike what happened in 28 Days, any time someone tries to do a good thing, a loving thing, a kind thing, the universe craps on them from a great height.

I have a lot of time for Robert Carlyle in general, but he's hamming it up quite a bit even before his character gets zombified, and afterwards much more so. (Why is he a smart zombie when nobody else is?) Catherine McCormack (Greta in Shadow of the Vampire!) is utterly wasted. We do have some other stars: Jeremy Renner (a year before his real breakout in The Hurt Locker) is the one military guy with a conscience but doesn't rise much above that, while Rose Byrne is a scientist who is Female and therefore Maternal. (I often feel Byrne doesn't get the breaks she deserves – she was excellent in the otherwise execrable Spy – but she can't recover from a scene where she has to look down an (optical) microscope at a wriggling "virus", and I'm not convinced she tries very hard.)

The score was written in two weeks. It shows, particularly with a repetitive four-note motif that's used whenever we get a long shot of a dramatic situation.

The first slightly less than half of the film, leading up to the outbreak, has promise. After that, for me, it's all a great big meh.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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  1. Posted by John Dallman at 09:21pm on 08 November 2022

    For that London City Airport scene, I think you're seeing a subcontracted sequence, done by someone who's sure that details don't matter as long as he charges enough.

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