The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

28 Weeks Later

Name a sequel that improves or is just plan better than the original. The obvious ones that always come to mind for me are The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather 2. Yes, both originals are classics in their own right, but the sequels improve on what made their predecessors better. In February I reviewed 2002's 28 Days Later, an entertaining if flawed zombie-like movie. Add another sequel to the list because I enjoyed 2007's 28 Weeks Later a tad bit more.

It has been 28 weeks since the Rage virus hit England, throwing the whole country into chaos as infected humans became rabid killing machines. The virus seems to have died out, and with help from American military and NATO forces, England is being re-inhabited slowly but surely. Among the population is Don (Robert Carlyle) who survived the virus, his two kids, Tammy (Imogen Potts) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), out of country at the times. But as life starts to get back to normal -- relatively -- the American forces, including scientist/medical officer Scarlet (Rose Byrne), are trying to figure out if the Rage virus is in fact...destroyed. Secrets await just when it seems like all the problems are in the past.

Now that shouldn't come as a surprise, should it? I hope not. A 99-minute movie about a father reuniting with his kids isn't exactly a zombie movie fans dream scenario. Yes, the Rage virus is back....but how this time around? Building off its 2002 predecessor, 'Weeks' is that worthy sequel that takes another step forward instead of standing still. Original director Danny Boyle takes a producer's role, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo taking the director's reins here. While 'Weeks' has its fair share of gore/violence, it isn't just a B-movie schlock fest. It has an art-house feel, a minimalist take on an almost post-apocalyptic world. The score from composer John Murphy is unbelievably appropriate, a moody, electronic sound to it. The look is even better, a washed out world punctuated by vivid blood red shots.

Both 'Days' and 'Weeks' had moments that resonated with me, surprisingly moving and truly creepy scenes that sent shivers up my back. 'Weeks' opens the gate running with one of the all-time great stunners of an opening. It starts when the Rage virus first hit, Don and his wife, Alice (Catherine McCormack), hiding in a countryside cottage with four other survivors, none of them quite sure what's going on to the world. They rescue a hysterical boy screaming to be let in and moments later the cottage is under attack by countless infected victims. One of the few acceptable uses of shaky-cam comes from this scene, a frenetic, chaotic, visceral scene where it's easy to see survival mode kick into high gear. Murphy's theme -- listen HERE -- combined with Carlyle's acting, some incredible camera work including several memorable tracking shots, and a genuine chill factor make this opening 10 minutes one of the best movie intros ever. Watch part of the opener HERE. Spoilers obviously.

The whole movie is full of moments like these, but like 'Days' there are moments in between that drag. Thankfully, there's less of those and from the start, 'Weeks' kept my attention longer and more attentively. Again, it's the set pieces that stand out from the rest. An isolated world unlike we've seen -- an empty, vacant London -- with a small group of survivors desperately trying to make it one more day. Jeremy Renner plays Doyle, a Delta force sniper, and steals the movie with a few key scenes as the virus unleashes itself, a team of snipers given a shocking order to open fire. The finale especially (maybe the last 30 minutes) are exhausting to watch, the Rage virus getting loose and infecting countless victims in the blink of an eye. There's some surprises, some thrills, and a chilling final shot. It leaves the door open for more sequels, and won't be a visual that you'll easily forget.

Like 'Days' (sorry, I'm going to stop doing that eventually), 'Weeks' relies on an ensemble cast full of character actors and possibly future stars to carry the load. The movie is better that way because with big, HUGE names, the movie on a personal level wouldn't be as appealing. Renner is the unquestioned star as sniper Doyle, the charismatic hero who shares some surprisingly funny scenes with Lost alum Harold Perrineau as Flynn, a Delta chopper pilot. Carlyle too is particularly memorable, a father who made a decision that weighs on him each minute of the day. Byrne shows she's another rising star in Hollywood in her part as Scarlet, the conscientious doctor. Also look for the always cool Idris Elba as Stone, an American officer leading the containment effort.

Very much enjoyed this one. Cool cast, cooler premise, some particularly memorable set pieces -- especially that opener -- and I'm looking forward to hopefully another sequel, 28 Months Later, at some point in the future.

28 Weeks Later <---trailer (2007): ***/****

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