Thirty Thousand Streets

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

28 weeks later

I went and saw 28 Weeks later at the Ritzy with Ed on Monday night, having planned to go and watch Zodiac, which was suddenly cancelled.

It's intense. If you've seen the original, you know what to expect: mobs of beserk inhumans, infected with bloodlust, rampaging through the streets of a post-apocalyptic London; only in this, the second installment of what seems destined to become at least a trilogy, its creators have dialled up the volume to about 15. This is Aliens to 28 Days Later's Alien, replete with marines and an exponentially vaster bodycount. This is a sequel that's been chained to a radiator in a basement, injected with crystal meth and forced to watch shaky handcam footage of war.

After a terrifying opening with Bobby Carlyle and some other fugitives hole up in a cottage, the action switches to London, where the American Military are seeking to repopulate London from the Isle of Dogs, now that the infected have starved to death. To cut to the chase, the disease of the first film has not been eradicated (there is a carrier) and with a fresh outbreak things go from bad, to worse, to extremely bad with extreme rapidity. Quarantine compromised, the jarheads running the show proceed to the zombie equivalent of defcon 1, liquidating everything in their crosshairs, infected or not.

It's an extremely effective film. A nasty cathartic hit, exhilerating and terrifying. There are some barnyard door sized holes in the plot which I could feel the draught from three rows in, but then, this is a genre that thrives on gross errors of judgement; on people going into cellars when you know they shouldn't have. As with most horror films, suspension of disbelief is key.

The political analogies of the film have been written about enough already, and in some ways they are pretty rudimentary, but the hubris of the military and indiscriminate firestorm that ensues seems – bizarrely – believable, as refugees and the infected alike are indisciminately shot to pieces in the canyons of Canary Wharf.

A common criticism of the film was that the slender development of its principal characters made empathising with them problematic, but it felt to me that the main character in this film is London itself, which is evoked in a tremendously atmospheric style: familiar yet terrifyingly empty, a vast necropolis resonating with distant gunfire. Here the film is tremendously successful, and taking in the sights is a mesmerising experience.

Ultimately, 28 weeks later is very bleak. There's little in the way of any moral message to it, as everyone ends up dammned, regardless of any nobler motives they may labour under. In spite of the political satire the might aspires to (which is actually more effective than you might expect it to be) this beast is essentially all about the action, at which it performs very well. By the end of it my heart was (to quote Big L) "pumpin' like Reeboks", and I left the cinema swaying on an adrenalin high. It is extremely gory though, and anyone with an aversion to blood might want to steer well clear (the span of a helicoptor's rotor blades clear, in fact).

Some trivia/slight spoiler:

In once scene a huge fireball erupts from the foot tunnel crossing from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich, and the Cutty Sark is clearly in shot. I saw this on the day that the bits of the ship that they left lying around went up in smoke.. which was kind of freaky.

Also, prior to seeing the film, I saw plenty of 'guerilla' marketing for the film, consisting of stencilled ads directing you to the website Apparently the ad adency that masterminded this had neglected to actually buy that domain name, so when some happy shopper discovered this and snapped it up, they were obliged to purchase it off them. Fancy that.


Hyo-Jin said...

i was contemplating seeing this film, but wasn't sure cos i missed out on the first film, 28 days later. i am a bit too wimpy to watch this but would only because of the London sightings!!!

The Eyechild said...

Hey, you made it through Sin City ok that time.. that's a pretty nasty film.


Zeno Cosini said...

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, for an even better, and equally bleak evocation of a post-apocalyptic London, watch Children of Men.