B+

28 Weeks Later

B+

28 Weeks Later

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Runtime: 99 minutes
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, Robert Carlyle
B+

28 Weeks Later

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Runtime: 99 minutes
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, Robert Carlyle

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The signature scene in Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 2001 thriller Intacto features a group of people running at full speed through a dense redwood forest, blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. The lucky ones survive, having proven themselves to the "God of Chance;" the others are, well, not so preternaturally gifted. Based on that scene alone, there couldn't have been a better choice to direct the sequel to 28 Days Later than Fresnadillo, who knows a thing or two about people running for their lives. With all the down-and-dirty intensity that made the original film so distinctive, Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later deliberately heads into Aliens territory, following a military effort to protect the lives of settlers in a barren locale. But in a pointed reference to current events, all that sophisticated hardware and manpower perpetuates the chaos it attempts to contain, and the film goes wildly, thrillingly out of order in kind.

Opening in the countryside manor where the first film left off, 28 Weeks Later begins with survivor Robert Carlyle fleeing a zombie attack and not-so-heroically leaving his wife behind in the process. When he resurfaces in London, the zombies have all died of starvation, and a NATO force, led by the U.S. Army, has carved out a "Green Zone" in London that's been cleared of bodies and any sign of infection. Within this space, 15,000 refugees are welcomed back to repopulate the vacant British Isles, including Carlyle's two children (Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots), who carry with them an important secret. When the "rage virus" gets loose again, an Army sharpshooter (Jeremy Renner) and a medical officer (Rose Byrne) try to lead the kids and a group of other survivors to safety.

Any fears that a studio-financed sequel to 28 Days Later would forfeit scrappy immediacy for something slicker and more expensive-looking are erased from frame one: The handheld camera bobs and weaves frenetically, and the whole movie looks like it was filtered through a rugby player's undergarments. Though traditionalists are correct in not wholly embracing the series' sacrilegious "turbo zombie" conceit—after all, the word "zombie" implies a lack of motivation—the creatures' sheer relentlessness unquestionably amps up the tension. It also helps underline the films' pervasive message about the breakdown of order: Given so little response time, it's remarkable just how quickly society can slide into chaos. Under Fresnadillo's assured direction, 28 Weeks Later blurs the line between genre entertainment and a photojournalist's shots of the next urban catastrophe.

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