Where the original film was more of an intimate look at one man’s struggle to come to grips with a brand new world, 28 Weeks Later’s story is dramatically different. This sequel takes place, obviously, 28 weeks after the rage virus was unleashed in Britain, but begins with a flashback to the days when those with the virus were terrorizing the country. Don (Robert Carlyle) and his wife have holed up in a farmhouse with a bunch of strangers attempting to wait out the horror. But alas, the best laid plans of mice and men can’t keep ravenous rage-filled zombies out of a boarded up farmhouse forever. As the zombies tear through the house searching for fresh flesh, Don abandons his wife to a horrible fate instead of staying to help fight the zombie horde.
Flash-forward 28 weeks and now Don is an important guy in helping to repopulate London. The US Army has moved in to patrol a quarantined ‘zombie-free/virus-free’ zone and displaced citizens are filing in by the trainload. Among those returning to try and re-establish their lives are Don’s two kids – Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots). Don feeds them a story about their mom’s death, crying at appropriate moments and of course failing to mention how he ran away like a small child rather than protect their mother.
Meanwhile, with the help of the American military led by General Stone (Idris Elba), a semblance of normalcy returns to the city. But that doesn’t last for long because Don's two kids make their way out of the quarantined zone, setting off a chain of events that sets the virus free once again.
Jeremy Renner’s a stand-out as a military sniper unwilling to obey the order to shoot every person in sight. The acting is solid throughout and the visual effects, including one spectacular scene involving a helicopter and hundreds of zombies, are about what you’d expect from a horror film operating without the benefit of a Spider-Man 3 budget.
Writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) doesn’t spare the blood and body parts, and 28 Weeks Later earns its R rating for strong violence and gore. Fresnadillo flat-out goes for the horror, drenching every scene possible with as much blood as can be squeezed into the kill.
The decision to use hand-held cameras adds to the freneticism of scenes as the audience gets an up-close-and–personal vantage point on multiple zombie attacks. The disadvantage to the jiggly cam is that you can’t be totally sure what you’re seeing. That’s more than a little frustrating when you're trying to figure out who's attacking who.
It's also necessary to point out that this follow-up to Danny Boyle’s popular zombie thriller wages war on the US military, with the film’s portrayal of the slaughter of thousands of British citizens (dead and undead) a pointed denouncement of America’s war in Iraq. There’s nothing new about the use of horror films as a form of social commentary, but the problem with 28 Weeks Later is that the plot surrounding said commentary is weak. If you’re going to get political, at least provide a solid storyline to cushion the agenda.
28 Weeks Later was directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and is rated R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity.