Sunday, 29 July 2007

trailers: winter epics



Robert Zemeckis has had a number of unqualified triumphs (the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the underrated Contact), however he has also produced enough drivel and mediocrity to cloud those achievements. Add to that the fact that the performance capture technique developed for The Polar Express still does not convince in this trailer, stuck in the uncanny limbo where it's practically photorealistic yet still looks completely artificial. On the plus side, Neil Gaiman worked on adapting the epic poem into a screenplay, and the trailer voice-over sounds suitably ominous. Nice to hear the music from 28 Days Later too; makes a change from hearing the Requiem for a Dream score whenever the trailer factory wants something big and dramatic and epic.

The Golden Compass


Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is a literary masterwork, and I will hear no opinion to the contrary. This trailer for the film adaptation of the first of the trilogy, however, suggests that the series' cinematic achievements will struggle to match its literary ones. The cast seem to fit their roles well, particularly newcomer Dakota Blue Richards in the role of Lyra, but the general art direction and cinematography seems to scream a general Hollywood blandness, all to reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia film. It's also dubious how well the films will tackle the novel's controversial (to say the least) religious themes. I dearly wish to be proven wrong, of course, for there is a potentially astonishing film trilogy to be made out of the novels, but for the moment I will keep my expectations cautiously low.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

what's wrong with long films?

I've lost track of the number of times I've heard, whether it's in reviews or on people's lips, complaints relating to the latest blockbuster than run something along the lines of "But did it really have to be so long?".

I must confess I find myself somewhat baffled by these comments. Surely, when it comes to these entertainment spectacles, the longer I am entertained, the better. If a film can give me three and a half hours of entertainment for my money, then that is better than if it gives me ninety minutes. It's like walking up to a greasy beach-side kiosk and complaining that your 50c buys you an enormous tub of chips, rather than the microscopic little bag you expected.

There's also the fact that you can just do more in three hours than you can do in one-and-a-half. The modern kind of fantasy/adventure blockbuster (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc., but also Star Wars, the Indiana Jones films, and so on) are, on their most basic level, about escaping into a fantastical and wonderful world inhabited by larger-than-life characters and anchored by simple but resonant mythic narratives. For this kind of thing, ninety minutes simply isn't enough to create a coherent sense of the world and feel at home in it. This is why blockbusters have been getting longer and longer, or spilling over into trilogies or even longer series.

If I want a movie to end, then it's probably because I'm not enjoying it, in which case, the length of the movie is not in itself a problem, but becomes one due to the film's other issues. Of course, I cannot deny that some films feel padded out and could benefit from a shorter running time. But when I hear people saying, for instance, that Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had no right to take up three hours of their time because it's nothing more than a rollercoaster pirate yarn, then I have to throw up my hands in sheer incomprehension. Why the hell did you go to watch it at all if you didn't want it taking up your time?

Thursday, 26 July 2007

review: harry potter and the order of the phoenix (david yates, 2007)

Rankings Table for the Harry Potter films, to date

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban



2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire




4. Harry Pottetr and the Chamber of Secrets

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Artistically, if not commercially, the cinematic adaptations of J.K. Rowling's excellent (despite their popularity) works have met with mixed success. While no film in the series is exactly bad, the first two in particular only capture the spirit of the novels intermittently. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Alfonso Cuaron's masterful third installment, which, to this viewer at least, is the only film so far to completely and rousingly live up to the source material - not to mention its being one of the greatest family blockbusters ever made. Cuaron's achievements did not stop at bringing to life the novels' sense of magical wonder in a way none of the other directors so far have managed, mostly through a child-like-wonder quality to the visuals - notable in the way details such as the changing of the seasons are foregrounded, moving the plot forward while adding invaluable colour. His masterstroke was in capturing the emotional quality of the books - the film's autumnal, overcast but luminous visuals mirroring Harry's increasingly dreadful awareness of his responsibilities. Cuaron understood Harry's increasing maturity, his first triumphant steps into adulthood and freedom shackled by his uncertainties, and his relationships with the paternal figures of Remus Lupin and Sirius Black (and the link to a lost past they represent), and it was his pitch-perfect rendition of these elements that made his film so successful.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix falls in between the two extremes. It never matches the greatness of Prisoner of Azkaban, but it comes a comfortable second, surpassing the Columbus films as well as Mike Newell's flawed and uneven, but enjoyable, Goblet of Fire. Director David Yates, aided by DoP Slawomir Idziak, belies his relative feature-film inexperience, giving the film a distinctive dark palette and visual style. Though he does not demonstrate the relentless inventiveness that Cuaron brought to the series, an impressive eye for visuals is evident from the opening sequence, set in a playing field as a strange storm approaches.

Narratively, the film trims down the lengthy, somewhat meandering novel into a relentless, lean, plot-driven race towards the final confrontation. While I have to disagree with the general opinion that the novel's numerous digressions and side-plots make it the weakest in the series (it is one of my favourites, for precisely those reasons), there's no denying that the changes are necessary and make a perfect fit for the cinematic medium.

Order of the Phoenix is the most political of Rowling's novels, and the film's screenplay emphasizes this subtext, making the film explicitly one about political intrigue, conspiracies and power-struggles, propaganda and media spin, and government interference in education. Yates has talked about this as his major fingerprint on the franchise, and while it is an important element in the development of the series, illustrating as it does Harry's growing awareness of the possibilities for the corruption of the establishment, the manipulation of the truth and the deception of appearances, it does seem to be slightly over-played in the film - twice is too much for the news headlines montage. As personified in the delightfully hateful figure of Dolores Umbridge (played note-perfectly by Imelda Staunton), however, these themes make for priceless boo-hiss material, especially for anyone who has ever grown up in a strict Church school.

The film builds inexorably towards a riveting final half-hour that is our first glimpse at the epic conflict that has always been just out of sight in the series, and Yates handles it superbly. This sequence is exciting, breath-taking, rousing, and ultimately tragic, as the scope of the battle grows increasingly higher, culminating in an astounding duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort that constitutes one of the series' cinematic highlights. At this points, the film's minor flaws - some sub-par CGI shots, occasionally rushed plotting - are forgiven, and the film becomes a more than worthy addition to the Potter canon, and one of the summer's best blockbusters.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

review: the piano tuner of earthquakes (the brothers quay, 2005)

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is my first lengthy exposure to the work of the Brothers Quay- the other being the brief yet brilliant hospital sequence in Frida (Julie Taymor, 2002).

I will first make a brave attempt at a brief synopsis:

This bizarre and beautiful film takes us through a progressively complex cluster of implied events and obscure intentions and relationships. The nightmarish fairy tale begins with the calculated abduction of the beautiful opera singer Malvina who is feigned dead and resurrected by the sinister Dr.Droz within the grounds of his secluded estate. While she haunts the estate like a mourning ghostly lover and waits for the manipulative hand of Droz to fit her into his opera of human puppets, a naive piano tuner named Felisberto is recruited to service Droz's mysterious musical automatons. Following a mysterious series of disjointed happenings, we follow Felisberto's growing passion for Malvina, his manipulation by the demonic Droz and the web of intrigue which forms itself around the Droz-Malvina-Felisberto love triangle and the sensuous and attention-starved housekeeper Assumpta.

And now a brave attempt at a review which may do it justice:

The film, as is often noted of their work in general, displays more than a passing debt to the work of that major name in stop-motion, Jan Svankmajer. However, although they appear to retain the disjointed subjectivity of the Svankmajerian vision, the directors here offer a different approach to the often obsessive-compulsive and quasi-solipsistic repetition of Svankmajer's work (not meant to be a negative description of his work on my behalf by the way).

The film in fact carries itself through a sensuous cloud of emotion with a gracefully slow phosphorescent air, retaining a sense of dark Romanticism. The film is, I find, blatantly unafraid of emotion, proposing a sound design which often intentionally privileges lurking rumblings and a swelling lover's score over the dialogue. The obscuring of dialogue and the disjointed editing increase the sense of subjective experience, continuously frustrating any straightforward form of understanding narrative events.

Although one may seek a full, concrete synopsis of the narrative on the official (sub)site, any attempt to pin down events into a clear and linear plot-line ignores the way in which meaning within the film is built upon thematic imagery rather than narrative.

Svankmajer does not appear to be the only influence however. Personally, I found that most of the pleasure derived from the film has much to do with my hunch that this dark fairy tale appears to be a hauntingly beautiful attempt to raise the ghosts of influence which surround the history of cinema. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes in fact appears to rely on its self-conscious debt to the various literary and cinematic influences upon which it rests its major thematic motifs.

The bleak romantic-gothic legacy located within the Edwardian and Victorian short mystery/ghost story ring throughout the film through the naive Felisberto's objective scientific voice-over, which slowly descends into ever-more hysterical fragments of memory.

German Expressionism supplies yet another rich source for the film, especially The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920): the repeated references to the forced subjugation of the beautiful somnambulist Malvina and the implication that Felisberto may or may not be one of Dr.Droz's mental patients. The looming presence of a precise and calculating mechanical occultism--often suggested by the sudden inter-cutting of stop-motion levers and Droz’s grotesque automatons--also emphasises the film's debt to the German Expressionist classics.

Playing itself out in murky mirror-like reflections and highly stylized sets, the film also reworks the angular distortion and themes regarding authority of the early influential movement by hiding its characters under the greenish haze of the cinematography and subtly hinting at the sinister, controlling hand of Droz.

Admittedly, The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes will not be to everyone's taste (Daniel and I in fact had to agree to disagree on this one)...its art house-style delivery of script and its bizarre and murky air is likely to be unpalatable to many, while probably being heaven-sent for those who are fans of films which continue to experiment with the art of stop-motion and unconventional modes of story-telling.

Personally, I find that the sense of mystery and willingness to display glowing, subjective emotion make this somewhat unusual experiment one that lingers with the mind, containing a conglomeration of elements from those films which had me hooked onto certain bizarrely fascinating works of cinema in the first place.

hi :-)


I'll be contributing reviews to Daniel's blog from time to time....I tend to agree with Daniel regarding most things, but when we disagree we REALLY perhaps I can bring a balance to the little bloggy force we have going on here....

hope anyone who reads this space finds something that they like...

see you on this page :-)

Monday, 16 July 2007

review: the host (bong joon-ho, 2006)

Little Miss Sunshine meets Jaws. As unlikely as the combination sounds, that's the best way to convey the essence of this odd Korean blockbuster, in which a deeply dysfunctional family is cast into crisis when the youngest daughter (Ah-sung Ko) is abducted by a mutant beast that looks like the result of the union of a catfish, a squid and Giger's Alien.

Throughout the film, the relationship of the family members is given as much importance as the monster's CGI-animated antics, while the whole is sprinkled with a strong element of political satire, mostly related to the Korean government and the US Army forces' attempts to cover up a situation they created. There is a strong anti-authoritarian and anti-establishment, particularly anti-American, bent to the film, though not much comes of this except for the Korean and especially American forces becoming almost cartoonish bad guys.

The Host gets a lot right, particularly an excellent cast that bring the family to life, making the characters seem entirely real and endearing in their flaws. It is this element that carries the film, giving it an emotional core that differentiates it from most other monster movies, or most blockbusters in general. As with many other Korean movies of recent years, also, it demonstrates an impressive level of technical production on all levels, with some remarkable cinematography and sound design.

The film's major failing is that it never seems quite sure what it wants to be. While this is part and parcel of its genre-bending approach, the problem is that it's completely uneven in tone, shifting clumsily from tragedy to light comedy, to heavy-handed satire, and back again. A case in point is the scene where the grandfather, entreating his son and daughter to be kind to their slightly-slow brother, gives a tearful admission of guilt for his son's condition. And the reason? I won't spoil it, but I can only assume it's meant to be funny. In the event, it's just awkward.

Another crippling flaw is the monster itself. It simply doesn't work, either as an artistic design (it feels like they just wanted to cram everything they could think of into one monster) or in terms of execution (the CGI varies from acceptable to ropey) ; in fact, it looks completely absurd. It's impossible to feel even remotely scared of it, and thus The Host does not even begin to work as a horror film; it just isn't scary, or tense, or especially exciting.

The Host's Korean origins have granted it a level of critical attention which it would never have had if it was a Hollywood product; it is, at heart, a pure and simple crowd-pleasing blockbuster, albeit one with a little more between the ears than many. On those terms, and nothing more, it offers solid entertainment, and earns itself a recommendation. It's definitely the best monster film I can think of in the past few years, though that's something of a back-handed compliment given that it's not exactly the most populated of genres currently. Ultimately, it's an ambitious mess of a film, reaching for a number of targets and falling short of most of them; the results, however, are never short of enjoyable.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

review: bridge to terabithia (gabor csupo, 2007)

Bridge to Terabithia
sets its claim in a territory that might seem old-hat for the family film, tackling as it does such themes as the power of the imagination and the relationship of fantasy to reality. Rather than more recent fantasy epics such as The Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter franchise, it bears comparison to films like Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986), where the source of the fantasy is firmly rooted in the child protagonist's everyday life and problems, and becomes a symbolic representation of their coming of age.

In its frequent use of atrocious pop songs and a saccharine orchestral score, in the heavy-handedness with which it repeatedly drives home its somewhat cliche "be yourself" message, and in done-to-death plot elements such as the inspirational schoolteacher (who is, admittedly, endearingly played by Zooey Deschanel), Bridge to Terabithia feels undeniably like the mediocre Disney message-laden family movie it sometimes threatens to descend into. And yet, other elements come as a surprise from a Disney family film: its feminist insistence on gender equality, its attack on religious fundamentalism, and, finally, its honest and unflinching treatment of death.

(some spoilers follow in white...highlight to read)

Leslie's death two-thirds into the film is completely unexpected and changes the tone of the film. Jessie's last, lingering glimpse of her suggests a budding sexual awakening, hinting at the possibility that their childhood friendship could eventually blossom into something more. His unfinished drawing of her, that we see after her death, again evokes his changing, incomplete image of her, and the cutting short of their relationship before it has been fully discovered. Death here is sudden, unexpected and without meaning - the survivors pick up the pieces and carry on as best they can.

(end spoilers)

There is a lot holding Bridge to Terabithia back from being as good as it could have been; apart from its frequent slips into cliche and sentimentality, there is little of the visual flair and imagination such a story demands. Its heart, however, is undeniably in the right place, and it certainly makes for a likeable little film; which already places it head and shoulders above the legions of family-oriented films produced every year.

Friday, 13 July 2007

someone needs to explain this to me

An entertaining two-hour ride? Check. A superior cops-and-robbers thriller? Check. An excellent example of cinematic craft? Check. Scorsese's best film? Um... Better than Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, Seven, Paths of Glory, Eternal Sunshine and The Third Man? Well... The 35th greatest film of all time? You've got to be joking.

I realize the IMDb Top 250 list is hardly the pinnacle of erudite cinematic taste, but the continuing praise lavished on The Departed is becoming increasingly baffling.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

list: the greatest blockbuster action sequences

"Blockbuster" is often used as shorthand for "artistically and intellectually arid commercial vehicle". That's more often true than not, but there have been more than enough exceptions to the rule to conclude that it is not necessarily the case. At their best, blockbusters can provide a unique escapist thrill coupled with a riveting visual spectacle, and, let's face it - they are the reason most of us came to love cinema in the first place. Cinephile snobbery aside, most of us harbour a torch for at least some blockbuster films, and we have to admit that, in a healthy, balanced cinematic diet, they are as necessary as the works of the great auteurs.

These, then, are the five greatest blockbuster action sequences:

fifth: the battle on the train in spiderman 2 (sam raimi, 2004)

Unquestionably the highlight of the recent run of superhero movies. Never did the Marvel superhero ethos and mythology make as much sense as it does in this spectacular sequence, where Spidey has to battle Doc Ock (hands down the most interesting and well-realized villain he’s faced), while rescuing a train full of commuters. Raimi throws his CGI-assisted camera around with the gleeful joy of a child on a sugar-rush, allowing him to stage superpowered action that emphasizes the superpowers.

fourth: the climactic battle in return of the jedi (richard marquand, 1983)

The Empire Strikes Back
remains by some way the finest all-rounder in the Star Wars canon, but Return of the Jedi’s climax is arguably the saga’s finest hour. The final confrontation between Rebel and Empire forces. The greatest space battle ever filmed (and surely there can be little argument on this). The most dramatically powerful (if perhaps not the best choreographed) lightsabre duel in the series. Anakin/Darth Vader’s redemption. The fall of the Emperor and the Empire. There may have been flashier blockbusters since, but rarely has the pop-mythic grandeur of these final moments been equaled.

third: the rescue of morpheus in the matrix (wachowski bros., 1999)

This sequence has become so familiar, almost every image having been permanently engraved in pop culture, every cinematic innovation written into the lexicon, that its initial impact has been somewhat dulled. And yet, if seen afresh, what an astoundingly inventive, exhilarating and energetic sequence of images this still is. Narratively, it presents Neo accepting and coming to terms with the reality of the Matrix, and becoming aware of the power he possesses over it. Technically, the Wachowskis here directed action with a cool, balletic grace, and with a willingness to explode the boundaries of cinema. From Neo and Trinity’s ballistic entrance into the lobby, through that jaw-dropping first glimpse of bullet-time on the roof, and right until that helicopter crashes into the building, this is breathless, mind-blowing stuff. Nothing even remotely like it existed at the time. Sadly, it was all downhill for the franchise from here.

second: the mines of moria in the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring (peter jackson, 2001)

The Lord of the Rings
holds a number of strong contenders for this list (it could just as easily have been Helm’s Deep or the Battle of the Pelennor Fields), but the Mines of Moria sequence – starting with a tense, eerie quiet, erupting into sudden, brutal violence, and climaxing with one of the most poignant moments in the trilogy – stands out as a masterpiece of action choreography. Three perfectly-executed set-pieces (the fight against the cave troll, the escape down the steps, and the confrontation on the bridge) blend seamlessly into one desperate, thrilling rush. Jackson captures the sequence with a kinetic, restless camera; his masterstroke lies in balancing the action’s raw, physical impact, with the grand mythic sense and spirituality of Tolkien’s epic vision.

first: the tanker chase in mad max 2: the road warrior (george miller, 1981)

Like the rest of The Road Warrior, the show-stopping final highway chase/battle, as the desert gang led by the excellently-named Lord Humungus attempt to stop the tanker carrying a precious oil cargo, is lean, efficient, entirely purposeful, and driven by an unstoppable forward momentum. Everything about this scene, from the dirty, patched-together production design, to the spectacular stunt work, to Gibsons’s stoic, career-best performance, to Miller’s note-perfect direction, works perfectly. More so than any other action scene I have ever seen, this sequence, despite its spectacular production design, feels raw, savage, immediate, hard-hitting, and entirely, plausibly real. It is, in conclusion, the greatest action scene ever filmed.

the runners-up:

  • The climactic battle in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End: The Pirates trilogy follows the structure of the original Star Wars trilogy pretty closely, which makes this its Battle of Endor. Even by those standards, it’s no disappointment – visually jaw-dropping, almost stupidly epic, and capturing precisely the right balance between humour, exhilarating action, and drama.
  • Kong vs. the T-Rex in King Kong: A standout scene in a mostly disappointing film, this ultimate “who would win in a fight between…” debate made cinematic reality gets more and more ridiculously over-the-top as it goes on, until you can’t help but have a huge grin over your face.
  • The truck chase in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Several tons of machinery. A little boy in peril. Cameron at his best. This may have been released in 1991, but it represents the apex of 80s high-concept action.
  • The T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park. Spielberg in top form. A masterful exercise in tension-building, erupting in a climax of frenetic horror and ground-breaking effects.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

classic image: stalker (andrei tarkovsky, 1979)

About halfway through Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979), a film that had an impact on me that very few others did, the three characters who have ventured into the mysterious, otherworldly Zone - an eerily beautiful landscape of stillness, decay and disintegration - stop for a rest while crossing a riverbed. They are the aesthetically-minded but somewhat egocentric Writer, the rationalist Professor, and the eponymous Stalker guiding them through the Zone towards the Room, a place that supposedly grants all who enter it their deepest desire.

Out of this simple, sci-fi-tinged premise, Tarkovsky crafts a shattering, profoundly allegorical, ambiguous meditation on faith and the spiritual element in humanity. As the travellers rest, Tarkovsky's camera, starting from the Stalker's sleeping face, slowly tracks across the shallow riverbed, finding, strewn in the dirt under the shallow, still water, the detritus of a dying civilization - cogs of industrial machinery, coins, hypodermic syringes, a religious icon. The camera finally stops when it finds the hand of another sleeper lying in the pool.

It sounds so simple in words, but, much the same as the rest of this uniquely powerful film, the transcendental, poetic grandeur of the scene is impossible to bring across. Quite apart from its sheer aesthetic beauty (shot in gorgeous sepia tones), and its melancholy, meditative stillness, the scene is laden with symbolic weight. Coming immediately after a deeply philosophical argument on the possibility and means of transcending our human natures, Tarkovsky shows us all the implements and artefacts by which humanity has strived to make itself into something greater - all reduced to wreckage in the mud of a riverbed. Moreover, the shot traces an intellectual arc, starting and ending with humanity, suggesting that all of humanity's attempts at transcendence have only provided momentary flights that invariably return us to the inevitability of confronting our own human nature.

It is a stunning, unforgettable moment in a two-and-a-half hour film composed of virtually nothing but.

Friday, 6 July 2007

step right up, folks

I suppose this is the place to say Welcome.

This is my blog. There are countless other blogs like it by people who have jumped on the bandwagon earlier, but this one is mine.

Primarily, this will be a blog about films and cinema, my primary obsession. It is ultimately a place for me to expound my enlightened/moronic (I'll leave that up to you), entirely subjective opinions on what's good, what's bad, and what's ugly. Which doesn't mean I can, or want to, promise that other things won't make their way into the posts. My other interests/obsessions - music, literature, videogames, coffee - will undoubtedly figure in here, as might life in general.

But enough said. On with the show. I hope you like it here...

Thursday, 5 July 2007

review: 28 weeks later (juan carlos fresnadillo, 2007)

British genre cinema has been enjoying something of a winning streak for the past few years, with the production of films that take on established Hollywood formulae but inject them with originality, verve and style. This year alone, we’ve had the excellent Sunshine and Hot Fuzz; now, we have 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to one of the films that arguably kick-started this revival. Danny Boyle’s original 28 Days Later, while owing much to the American zombie films with which it has been associated, was at its heart a modernization of a very British brand of apocalyptic science fiction typified by John Wyndham’s novel The Day of the Triffids – the association is made explicit when Jim, Cillian Murphy’s character, wakes up in a London hospital to find everything has changed, much like Bill Masen does in Wyndham’s novel. This apocalyptic trend in sci-fi has met with a resurgence in recent years – last year gave us Alfonso Cuaron’s brilliant Children of Men – and it’s interesting to ponder how far this is perhaps a reflection of more troubled times.

Thus, while in 28 Days Later the zombie-like infected are an ever-present threat, the focus of the film lies on the disintegration of civilization, and the survivors’ ensuing struggle to cope and pick up the pieces. 28 Weeks Later inverts this dichotomy: the slavering, blood-drenched hordes of the infected are constantly up front and centre, or very palpably in the sidelines, and everything else, apart from the heavy-handed but occasionally effective political allegory occasioned by the presence of the US Army and their efforts to control the situation, is background detail. Much more so than Boyle’s film, this is an all-out horror thrill ride, with an added sheen of blockbuster polish and spectacle (most evident in the dramatic later scenes where the streets of London are fire-bombed by the army) that the raw, immediate 28 Days Later lacked. On that level, its primary (and considerable) failings lie, like too many other horror films, in a plot that often hangs on far-too-convenient coincidences, glaring implausibilities, and people going out of their way to do very stupid things. Thus, time after time, three or four important characters repeatedly run into each other all over London, or are very conveniently at the exact right place at the right time; while we have to swallow, as a major plot-moving device, the fact that two children, one day after returning to plague-ravaged London, would think it is a good idea to sneak out of the army-secured safe zone and travel miles across the city on their own; and that they can get through an army blockade virtually undetected by very craftily sneaking under a bridge. Right.

There is, on the other hand, much to like about 28 Weeks Later. What the film lacks in narrative logic and coherence, it almost makes up for with the breathless energy, claustrophobic tension and apocalyptic grandeur of its masterfully-executed set-pieces. The film can boast of at least four remarkable scenes that are likely to remain imprinted in the viewer’s memory, particularly a heart-pounding and poignant opening sequence that has to rank among the cinematic highlights of the year. Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, whose 2001 feature debut Intacto made for an interesting and offbeat thriller, gives the numerous action scenes a frenetic, relentless and chaotic quality that makes them scarily palpable (apart from a helicopter-death scene that would have been great in Evil Dead 4 but that is completely out of place here).

As a whole, 28 Weeks Later is too flawed to be a good film, and it’s far from the level of Boyle’s original, lacking the latter’s depth and assured style. On its own terms, it makes for an above-average, reasonably enjoyable and effective slice of action-horror, but, considering its lineage, one can’t help but be slightly disappointed.