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.


kemm hi tajba il-fanta said...

Bravu hafna Daniel.
Qrajt ir-review tieghek b'intess kbir. Niehu gost kieku tikteb fuq il-klassici tac-cinema.

Daniel Vella said...

Grazzi Josmar :P

Lara said...

fil-kaz ta' Josmar qatt ma' nkun naf jekk il-post tkunx sarkastika jew le...