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Originally published May 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 11, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Movie review

"28 Weeks Later" brings back "the infected" (and some pretty contagious action)

Leaving the long-standing debate over shambling zombies vs. running ones to nerds, I'll just say this: Seeing the fast-moving ones burst...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 2 stars


"28 Weeks Later" with Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo from a screenplay

by Rowan Joffe, Jesús Olmo and Fresnadillo. 100 minutes. Rated R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity. Several theaters.

Leaving the long-standing debate over shambling zombies vs. running ones to nerds, I'll just say this: Seeing the fast-moving ones burst into someplace for carnage looks shockingly similar to news footage of doors opening at bridal-dress sales.

Not that those aren't terrifying, too. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's ("Intacto") sequel to director Danny Boyle's excellent 2003 "28 Days Later" isn't nearly as good, and its characters are malnourishing, but it delivers plenty of tension for a decent scary-movie night.

The setup is promising — as if Albert Camus had been into cannibal sieges when he wrote "The Fall." A horde of "the infected" (they're not technically zombies — another nerd fine point) overruns an English country house where a group of survivors is holed up, and a man has to make a quick choice: flee and save himself, or try (and probably fail) to save his wife. If you watch this with a significant other, be prepared for the "What would you do?" argument.

Movie review 2 stars


Showtimes

"28 Weeks Later" with Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo from a screenplay by Rowan Joffe, Jesús Olmo and Fresnadillo.

100 minutes. Rated R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Later, the epidemic is over and the guilt-haunted man (Robert Carlyle) welcomes his two children (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton — seriously) to their new home. England is devastated, and the obnoxious, overbearing U.S. military is repatriating survivors on a small island under martial law.

The social commentary is as subtle as — well, a George Romero movie. In fact, the locked-down community is a bit like the one in "Land of the Dead," sociopathic soldiers (see "Day of the Dead") can be counted on to make things worse and it's only a matter of time before some stupid choices turn the situation into a big wedding-dress sale.

While there's plenty familiar in "28 Weeks," the filmmakers try to keep viewers off-balance by tearing a page (or an arm) from "Psycho," making it clear early that anyone's fair game. So much for character arcs. Some worthy actors, such as Idris Elba from HBO's "The Wire" as the commandant and Harold Perrineau as a helicopter pilot, don't even get a little arc on which to masticate.

What sets things in motion is the discovery of a survivor with a natural immunity to the "rage virus," who's also a carrier. If doctors could only analyze her properly, they might be able to find a cure. However, since all the maniacs have died off, the problem seems to have solved itself already, and I don't understand why they didn't just shoot her.

That's not the only plot point the writers didn't think through. The most laughably lame one involves a zombie who somehow manages not only to survive every massacre and purge but also uncannily turns up wherever the two children happen to be. Hiding, running, in containment on the island, in a city Tube tunnel. Barring the innovation of a zombie GPS device, this is unacceptable.

The movie's still a hoot during the hand-held-camera action scenes. For instance, the image of Carlyle fleeing through the countryside from infected sprinters will get your blood churning in short order.

And speaking of Camus, the movie sets up a sequel in France. But if they're already eating snails there, how shocking can that be? Mmmm, Freedom Eyes. Bon appétit.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

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