28 Weeks Later

The whole "28 Days Later" phenom gets a classy makeover -- and the birth of a potentially endless franchise -- in "28 Weeks Later," a full-bore zombie romp that more than delivers the genre goods.

Don Harris - Robert Carlyle Scarlet - Rose Byrne Sgt. Doyle - Jeremy Renner Flynn - Harold Perrineau Alice - Catherine McCormack Andy - Mackintosh Muggleton Tammy - Imogen Poots Gen. Stone - Idris Elba Karen - Emily Beecham Jacob - Shahid Ahmed

The whole “28 Days Later” phenom gets a classy makeover — and the birth of a potentially endless franchise — in “28 Weeks Later,” a full-bore zombie romp that more than delivers the genre goods. Helmed by Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who debuted with the impressive 2001 fantasy thriller “Intacto,” the pic wraps a tight-as-a-drum script around a cheeky metaphor for contempo Iraq, with razzle-dazzle dividends. Given the muscular playoff, starting May 11 worldwide, this bleak, tough chiller could easily match the 2002 original’s surprising $82 million worldwide gross if it can survive the challenge of getting caught in Spidey’s slipstream.

Where the Danny Boyle-helmed, Alex Garland-scripted original had the feel of a genre movie progressively trapped by its non-genre ambitions, “Weeks” knows exactly where it’s going from itsknockout first reel. It’s to the credit of Boyle and Garland (serving here as exec producers) that they’ve let Fresnadillo and his team of Spanish writers, along with Brit scribe Rowan Joffe, off the sequel leash and allowed them to go for it. Joffe, son of helmer Roland, has already scored a local rep with scripts for Pawel Pawlikowski’s gritty immigrant drama “Last Resort” and cheeky no-budget docudrama “Gas Attack.”

With no reference to the original or its characters, “28 Weeks Later” starts in medias res as a couple, Don Harris (Robert Carlyle) and Karen (Emily Beecham), scavenge inside a gloomy house for food. We hear their kids were luckily sent abroad just before the virus outbreak. Then, in a surprise encounter typical of the movie’s low-key humor, they come across the house’s owners and another refugee, Jacob (Shahid Ahmed).

Shadowy, claustrophobic start is abruptly shattered — in an explosion of daylight, noise and gnashing teeth — as a pack of zombies break in and start to chow down. In a mixture of confusion and cowardice, Don escapes, leaving Alice, in a creepy final image, for zombie dinner.

Socko opening is followed by captions filling in the background: 15 days after the original outbreak, mainland Britain was quarantined; 28 days later, the population was destroyed by the rage virus. Eleven weeks later, a U.S.-led NATO force entered London; 18 weeks later, Britain was declared “free” of infection. Twenty-four weeks later, “reconstruction” began. Enter main title, “28 Weeks Later.”

In fact, the only infection-free area of the country is a heavily fortified area in east London’s Docklands quarter, now dubbed District 1 Security Zone. As some new arrivals disembark at City Airport and are processed by Yank troops (“The U.S. Army is responsible for your safety”), it doesn’t take a political science degree to realize we’re not light years away from Baghdad, ca. 2007, with rampaging zombies standing in for Muslim terrorists.

Among the new arrivals are Don’s children, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots), who are welcomed by dad. In an emotionally powerful sequence where Fresnadillo lets the camera just focus on his actors, Don gives his version of what happened to mom, conveniently leaving out the fact that he left her to die.

Script then starts to twist the knife on Don’s guilt as Andy and Tammy clandestinely cross the river to visit their home, where, to their great surprise, they find mom hiding upstairs. She’s “infected” but isn’t showing any outward signs of zombie rage, causing U.S. doctor Scarlet (Aussie thesp Rose Byrne) to surmise her blood has a natural immunity that could be used to generate a vaccine.

However, the military brass trust more in firepower than scientific theory. When all hell breaks loose in District 1, Scarlet and the kids, along with a sympathetic Marine, Sgt. Doyle (Jeremy Renner), flee for their lives across London, pursued by hungry zombies on one side and U.S. troops on the other.

In pic’s second half, Fresnadillo pretty much keeps the pedal to the metal, with some deftly drawn scenes of deserted, garbage-strewn London streets and a succession of set pieces — aircraft firebombing District 1, a zombie attack in Regent’s Park, and a clammy descent into the subway network — that pile on the thrills. Auds familiar with London’s topography will get an extra charge from these scenes, as well as the ironic climax in an overgrown Wembley Stadium.

Once the action begins, there’s no time wasted on explanations or motivation, which is just as well for thinly drawn characters like Doyle. But pic is well served by its cast, with Byrne (good in Boyle’s recent “Sunshine”) making the most of small character moments, and Muggleton and Poots delivering sterling perfs as the conflicted but sensible kids. As the weak father, Carlyle clearly has a ball in the later stages after showing his more regular acting smarts earlier on.

Production design makes inventive use of existing locations, and visual effects are just fine, with a unfussy snap and crackle. High-gore quotient makes this not for fainthearted auds, though there’s a straight-faced humor to all the bloodletting that finally breaks the surface in the pic’s witty coda.

Popular on Variety

28 Weeks Later


Production: A 20th Century Fox (in U.K.)/Fox Atomic (in U.S.) release of a Fox Atomic (U.S.)/DNA Films (U.K.) presentation, in association with U.K. Film Council, of a Figment Films (U.K.)/Sogecine, Koan Films (Spain) production, in association with Dune Entertainment. Produced by Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich. Executive producers, Danny Boyle, Alex Garland. Co-producer, Bernard Bellew. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Screenplay, Rowan Joffe, Fresnadillo, Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Jesus Olmo.

Crew: Camera (color), Enrique Chediak; editor, Chris Gill; music, John Murphy; production designer, Mark Tildesley; supervising art director, Patrick Rolfe; art director, Denis Schnegg; costume designer, Jane Petrie; special makeup effects, Dave Bonneywell, Anthony Parker; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS Digital), Glenn Freemantle, Simon Hayes; visual effects supervisor, Sean Mathiesen; digital visual effects, Rising Sun Pictures, Animal Logic, LipSync Post, Rainmaker Animation & Visual Effects U.K., the Mill, the Senate Visual Effects, Rushes, Chocolate Lab., FrameStore CFC, Prime Focus; assistant director, Toby Ford; casting, Shaheen Baig. Reviewed at Century preview theater, London, April 18, 2007. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Don Harris - Robert Carlyle Scarlet - Rose Byrne Sgt. Doyle - Jeremy Renner Flynn - Harold Perrineau Alice - Catherine McCormack Andy - Mackintosh Muggleton Tammy - Imogen Poots Gen. Stone - Idris Elba Karen - Emily Beecham Jacob - Shahid Ahmed

More Film

  • AMC TheatresShop signs, Los Angeles, America

    AMC Theatres Lays Off 35 Corporate Staffers

    AMC Entertainment has laid off 35 corporate staffers and will not fill an additional 15 open jobs. The Kansas-based chain made the announcement Thursday as part of a previously announced “profit improvement plan” intended to achieve operating and administrative efficiencies. AMC, which operates more than 10,000 movie screens, had disclosed the plan on Aug. 8 [...]

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Take Me Somewhere Nice review

    Ena Sendijarevic on Migration, Identity and the Question of Belonging

    Bosnian filmmaker Ena Sendijarević had an auspicious debut with “Import,” a short film which world premiered in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 2016. Drawing on her own family’s personal history, the Amsterdam-based director crafted an idiosyncratic tale about a family of Bosnian refugees trying to make a new home in the Netherlands. With her feature debut, [...]

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    Haugesund Prizes ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire,’ ‘Him,’ ‘Ballon’

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  Celine Sciamma’s intellectually dexterous, bittersweet love tale “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” has claimed another heart, taking home The Norwegian Film-Critics’ Prize at the Haugesund Film Festival’s closing night on Thursday. The festival, which runs over August 17-23, capped its 47th edition with a screening of André Løyning and Kristian Landmark’s [...]

  • Motherless Brooklyn Edward Norton

    Edward Norton Investigates Murder in 'Motherless Brooklyn' Trailer

    The trailer for Edward Norton’s forthcoming crime drama “Motherless Brooklyn” is officially out. Warner Bros.’ drama, based on the 1999 novel by Jonathan Lethem, follows Lionel Essrog, a young man who works for a small-time mobster in Brooklyn while struggling with an intense case of Tourette Syndrome. “Okay, listen, I got something wrong with me, [...]

  • Summer Box Office

    Box Office Report Card: Studios Get Their Summer Grades

    Studios got badly burned this summer. From May to August, popcorn season in movie speak, the film flops piled up and the big hits were few and far between for nearly every company except Disney. As a whole, summer did little to instill confidence in the state of moviegoing. To be sure, there were successes [...]

  • Port Authority

    Nate Parker's 'American Skin' to Play in Deauville

    Nate Parker’s politically charged drama “American Skin” is set to play at the 45th edition of the Deauville American Film Festival following its world premiere at Venice. “American Skin,” which tells the story of a Gulf War veteran whose son is killed by a police officer, marks Parker’s first feature film since the news resurfaced [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content