America’s global police face one of their most harrowing missions todate in “28 Weeks Later,” charged with restoring order in London seven months after the outbreak of the deadly (and highly communicable) Rage virus. It’s an unforgiving task.
The infected — ravenous zombies with an uncontrollable bloodlust — still patrol the countryside, always threatening to infiltrate the “green zone” designated for survivors. And, as usual, the Americans have no exit strategy, save for destroying the city and all its inhabitants.
Subtle it’s not, but “28 Weeks Later” is, like its formidable predecessor, a scathing indictment of human nature that directs its cynical anger at soldiers who would just as soon slaughter their charges as protect them. In Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” those soldiers were British mercenaries who embraced their basest instincts a bit too readily; here, in the hands of writer-director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“Intacto”), they are Americans who transform London into an inferno when their plan to contain the virus backfires.
That’s bad news for Don (Robert Carlyle, of “Trainspotting”) and his children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (newcomer Mackintosh Muggleton). Don is overseeing the resettlement of the green zone while struggling to hold his family together, despite the noticeable absence of his wife (Catherine McCormack), who is presumed dead. When she resurfaces, carrying the virus but showing few of its telltale symptoms, the mayhem begins in earnest.
The rest of “28 Weeks” follows Tammy and Andy through the abandoned city, aided by two Americans who can’t bring themselves to execute the Army’s final solution. It’s a gloomy, horrifying journey, uncompromisingly bleak in its depiction of a post-apocalyptic world governed by self-serving nihilism. Fresnadillo borrows liberally from Boyle’s original — the frenetic camerawork remains, as does John Murphy’s haunting score.
But for all its political undertones, “28 Weeks” isn’t nearly as devoted to social satire as its predecessor. It works on that level, too, but Fresnadillo’s film is slightly less ambitious — more than anything, it aims to deliver a serious shock to the system.
And it succeeds. Frantically paced and maddeningly tense, “28 Weeks Later” is a worthy sequel, terrifying in its simplicity. If it lacks some of the original’s depth, so be it. This is first-rate entertainment, and a welcome gift for those of us who waited four years for another “28 Days.”
28 Weeks Later ***½
Starring Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle, Imogen Poots, Mackintosh Muggleton, Idris Elba
Written by Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Jesús Olmo, E.L. Lavigne
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes