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Saturday, May 12, 2007

28 Weeks Later

This weekend my perfect husband decided to take me away from my humdrum existence as your humble movie viewer and swept me away to the annual Tulip Festival in Ottawa. Okay, I know you are immediately thinking “Tulip Festival? What the…?” because I don’t seem exactly the tulipy type of gal, and you are right, however, I am the type who never turns down an opportunity to spend some romantic alone time with my perfect hubby in a hotel somewhere, so I’m afraid that of the three new movies opening at the Essex Cinemas this week, I only had time to see one before we left on our brief 432nd honeymoon (not that I’m counting, but I like to think that every trip we take out of the country is a honeymoon of sorts, even if it is ostensibly for work, but I am digressing as usual). So as I stood at the marquee at the Essex Cinemas on Friday afternoon, I had to choose quickly which of the three movies I would see. It was either Delta Farce, Georgia Rule, or 28 Weeks Later. Fred, my perfect husband, said he wanted to come with me to see Delta Farce. He won’t admit it because it sounds too gay, but like most men in America he has a guy-crush on Larry the Cable Guy and thinks he is the funniest thing on two legs. As for Georgia Rule, well, on the off-chance that we were to get killed on the way to Ottawa (after all, we were going to drive through Quebec and those folks drive like they get bonus points for running Americans off the roads), I did not want to think that the last thing I was going to be contemplating just before I died was Lindsay Lohan. I’m sorry, but it is true. That girl is just nasty and I would be afraid to sit down anywhere she had been because you just know she’s left some disease behind. Actually, she would have been a natural choice to star in the flick I finally did see, 28 Weeks Later.

28 Weeks Later is, after all, about the blight of disease. In particular, it is about a virus gone wild throughout England, turning people into flesh-eating crazies within seconds of infection. It is spread by bodily fluids, so the most obvious ones to blame would be Lindsay, Paris Hilton, Jude Law and whoever the Flavor of the Month is that US Weekly will be naming to fill their pages once they have excavated every last crumb from the Anna Nicole story.

For those coming to see
28 Weeks Later, you should know that it is a sequel to director Danny Boyle’s brilliant original, 28 Days Later, in which he followed the story of a small group of survivors of this plague that was caused by the inadvertent “good intentions” of some animal rights activists who unleashed it in the midst of trashing a center doing chemical testing on chimpanzees. Once the “rage virus” makes contact with humans they have mere seconds before they become overwhelmed with homicidal madness and a temper so uncontrollable they attack anybody within reach and will try to tear them apart or even eat them alive. I think that is an important distinction for serious viewers of 28 Weeks Later to understand and appreciate as these movies have regrettably been lumped in the same category with your typical “zombie” fare like Night of the Living Dead, which is certainly no sloucher in making its own statements about society, but it has been the granddaddy to spawn a whole genre of schlock in the past 38 years since its initial release and so its looked down upon by a lot of the general public who haven’t even seen it but are convinced it must stink like five day old surprise visits from in-laws you can’t stand (Happy Mother’s Day to my Mother-in-Law by the way!).

28 Weeks Later has a great pedigree in spite of being headed up by a novice writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto). Veteran actor Robert Carlyle (Eragon) leads the cast as Don, a husband and father who has sent his two kids away to safety as soon as the outbreak began and now he and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormick; The Moon and the Stars) have holed up in a country house with a motley group of other survivors living precariously during the same time period covered in the original film. Obviously, their respite from being chased by the infected is short-lived or there wouldn’t be much of a movie, and, sure enough, as it says in The Bible, a little child shall lead them. When an unnamed boy (Beans El-Balawi; Half Light) runs panicked to the cottage where the refugees are hiding, he points a trail of hundreds of the mind-altered killers right their way.

From here, the action moves to London, six months later, and the movie takes on a militaristic
theme. The film captures the current Iraqi war flavor as we see that the Americans have taken over the land and turned London into sectors, including its own “Green Zone” much as exists in real life Baghdad. Soldiers patrol the perimeter sluggishly, since as far as they know, the threat has been contained, and they are now a part of the reintegration project, which means the reintroduction of survivors into London and the rebuilding of society once the decaying bodies of the infected, the rats, and the wild dogs are cleared away. Among the militia is the team of foot-soldier/sniper Doyle (Jeremy Renner; Take) and his helicopter pilot/buddy in the sky, Flynn (Harold Perrineau of tv’s “Lost”) who guides and protects Doyle through any number of rescue missions in the following hour or so when things go wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

The action is non-stop, and the gore levels are high in
28 Weeks Later, but that is to be expected in a war, and this is really a war movie more than anything else. The enemy is purposely kept silent (save a few grunts and howls), and their movements are jerky and oddly super-fast and non-human enough to make them scarily different from us even though they are us. They are also, for the most part left anonymous, except in a few important instances when the transformation from “normal” to “zombie” (I hate calling them that because, as a purist, I know that they are not actually dead until someone ~ hopefully ~ kills them) is integral to the plot itself.

There is, in fact, a glimmer of hope offered in
28 Weeks Later, as medical officer Scarlet (Rose Byrne; Sunshine), discovers a possible natural immunity to the virus circulating in the veins of a couple of children amongst the survivors, but keeping them safe proves harder than she or Doyle ever imagined, and herein lies a major plot point of the second half of the movie as Doyle bravely does what he can to protect these kids and get them to safety as London is once again overtaken by the diseased killers.

I guarantee that by the end of the film’s 99 minutes you’ll be exhausted since you’ll feel like you’ve been on the run for the entire time. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll see it again tomorrow and then I can say I’ve gone running for over three hours this week. Damn! Who knew I was so athletic? Do yourself a favor and run on down to the
Essex Cinemas and join my fitness regime and see what 28 Weeks Later can do for you.

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