Wednesday, 17 December 2008

28 Weeks Later DVD Review

A brave attempt at a sequel to a hard to follow original, and although not as raw and shocking as Boyle's film, it stands up on its own with some standout scenes and great locales.

The introduction was a brilliant, fast paced, 'hit the ground running' set-piece and although the chaos was brought about by some unrealistic lack of judgement, the decision faced by Robert Carlyle's Don was a great shock so early in the film which left an uncomfortable feeling as the infection in the UK was detailed through text on the screen in the following scene. It was a nice change to have the perceived key protagonist killed off and relagated to the sidelines at least half way through the film and his presence as the 'zombie with a personality' harked back to Romero's Bub and Big Daddy from Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead, respectively.

Like the 'lack of judgement' in the first scene, there were a few slightly 'out of place' plot developments in 28 Weeks Later which were used to propel the narrative, such as the children being allowed and able to escape the quaratine zone and Don being able to visit the possibly contagious wife without any supervision. However, these omissions didn't completely detract from the overall film and it could be argued that as the film was more focused on the Harris family it wasn't important. Aside from Don, the family itself wasn't too impressive, with both the children and mother adequately playing their roles, not bringing anything eyeopening to the table. The other minor players in the film, (predominantly soldiers) were fun to watch (although underused), particularly the amusing interplay between the marines played by Jeremy Renner and Harold Perrineau. Rose Byrne's Major Scarlet Ross was sufficient in her role as the doctor desperately trying to protect the medically vital Andy, but in the end didn't have much to work with.
As with the preceding film, the empty shots of London are always hauntingly peaceful and unnerviing, and it was a good move to use different sections of London, particularly the Docklands and the East End (although I bet it was easier to shoot 'empty' shots of the Docklands than The West End as was done in 28 Days Later). Another wise follow-through from the first film was the repeated use of the chilling theme by John Murphy (also used to slightly less effect in a peugeot 206 advert) - this slow building piece continues to perfectly underpin the chaos that ensues throughout.

While it does share some facets with Boyle's original film, Fresnadillo's work does bring some welcome new ideas to the zombie franchise. The cinematography was frantic and frenzied where it needed to be while it also experimented with a variety of modes, such as the CCTV in District 1, as well the grayscale cameras following the DLR. The 'sniper scope viewpoint' was an interesting cinematic viewpoint, and was well used in the 'code red' scenes, where the marines were ordered to shoot everyone, inftected or not. This dilemma was suprisingly realistic and a nice change from the simple good/bad role soldiers can often play (it's also likely one of the reasons the film received an 18 certificate). Aside from their creative use, the scenes also aptly resonated with the global and political themes of insurgecny and guerrila warfare- where you don't and can't know who the opposing force is. Speaking of the army, it was definately a mistake to not let the audience see the fate (or at least the location) of the army general commanding the entire operation, as it felt like a loose end which have been tied up.

Overall, 28 Weeks Later is an interesting study in 'sequelology'- although not a great film, it suprisingly distances itself enough from its prequel, while retaining enough ties and connections to make it worth watching. It seems uncertain whether or not there will be a sequel to his one (the ending practically begged for one), but from this recent interview with Danny Boyle, I'd be interested in seeing what his "strong...different idea" would be.

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