Tuesday, February 24, 2009
28 Weeks Later -- Promises kept, promises broken
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007.
28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 28 Days Later, is helmed by Spaniard Fresnadillo, although Danny Boyle does direct some of the second-unit filming. The first movie was scary and chilling due to the unknown effects of the rage virus. But that is known now. Indeed, it works as an action film, but has more in common with Alien or The Lost Patrol, as a small group of survivors must make a journey while being killed one by one.
Where 28 Days Later focused on the impact of the Rage virus on the individual, showing the dramatic psychological consequences to both the infected and those running from the infected, 28 Weeks Later focuses on the impact of the virus on society in general. Unlike its predecessor, there is no hope or redemption here, not even a glimmer. It is a tale devoid of grace.
As the movie begins, Fresnadillo takes us back to the days of the original outbreak. Don (Robert Carlyle) and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) are living in a farmhouse with several other survivors. When they are attacked by the infected, Don and Alice are trapped in a bedroom. But one of the infected zombies breaks in; Don leaves Alice and flees through the window. Looking back he sees her pleas for help before she disappears.
Seven months later all the infected are dead from starvation. Britain has been declared ready for repopulation, and the Isle of Dogs area of London is the initial site for the return, order having been restored. The US Army is supervising this repatriation and is providing protection for these people, all of whom live in the towering apartment buildings. Stationed atop surrounding roofs, US soldiers perform permanent surveillance to ensure that no one leaves the safe area, and no one comes in.
Don is now caretaker of one of the towers and has AAA status -- all area access. His two children, 17 year-old Tammy (Imogen Poots) and 12 year-old Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), survived the plague since they were in Spain at the outbreak, and they are reunited with their dad in this repopulation. Indeed, Andy is declared the youngest person in Britain, since they are the first children allowed back into the country.
When Don recounts the fate of their mother, he leaves out some key details. Naturally, the kids are devastated but Tammy promises Andy that she will never leave him, they will never be separated. Things hit home when Andy realizes he has trouble remembering Alice's face. He has no photographs to prompt recollection. Act one ends with Tammy and Andy sneaking out of the cordoned area to visit their old home, specifically to pick up clothes and photos.
If act one lays the groundwork and shows the social situation, act two kicks the action into gear. When a new survivor is brought into the quarantined city, the soldiers unwittingly allow the virus back. Scarlet (Rose Byrne from The Rage in Placid Lake), the US Major in charge of medical research, recognizes the problem and the potential. In a scene of ironic justice, Don becomes the first infected. Then before Scarlet can do anything, the virus is free, and the infected are multiplying again. The biggest question in this sequel is how the crazed and unthinking Don keeps showing up where his kids are, as though he is actually stalking them.
When panic breaks out and the infected run rampant, the US goes into code red: "Step 1: Kill the infected. Step 2: Containment. If containment fails, then Step 3: Extermination." Scarlet stays with Andy and Tammy, and along with infantry sniper Doyle (Jeremy Renner) and some no-name survivors, they need to flee the area and rendezvous with an escape helicopter across London. The scene is set for the chase and slow demise of this last platoon.
Although no more than an escapist gore-fest, 28 Weeks Later does make us review promises kept and broken. Don broke his sacred promise to Alice. His marriage vows presumably said something about promising to care for each in health and sickness. As husband, he was expected to protect her in times of danger. Yet, when death stared both in the face, he cowered and fled as a coward.
The original movie focused on the cost of survival. The cost in this one for Don was the loss of his wife and the guilt that plagued him afterwards. Was it the right thing to do? Would we have done any different if we were in his shoes? Would Don have been able to save them both? Although 28 Days Later showed survival as a core value, often causing one member to kill others, it did so in the context of them being infected. Don left Alice before she was infected simply to save himself.
If Don broke his marital promise, Tammy kept her sibling promise. She stayed with Andy, but at what cost. She remained true to her word and this may have resulted in devastating consequences.
This sibling promise reminds us of the promise of our "brother" Jesus (Mark 3:35). To those who choose to follow him he gave a promise: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:20) He will never break that promise; it is one you can count on to be kept.
Copyright ©2009, Martin Baggs
at 7:00 AM