28 Weeks Later
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Weitten by Rowan Joffe, Mr. Fresnadillo, E.L. Lavigne and Jesus Olmo
Starring Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner


28 Weeks later

As I watched "28 Weeks Later" I kept thinking about "Children of Men," which I'll get to in a moment. "28 Weeks Later" is the sequel to the story of the virus that attacks the inhabitants of Great Britain (and which for various reasons I never saw, so you'll have to forgive me for not spotting what I am sure are important links from one to the other). However, this film also must stand on its own, and it does not. It is the sadly jumbled story of what happens, um, 28 weeks later than the first film, when the survivors have been taken to the Isle of Dogs where the United States armed forces have provided protection (I assume the British are wiped out).

But Robert Carlyle and his wife are still in their country house, nearly out of food and the packs of vampires touched by the virus are roaming around outside. The kids, though, are on their way to the Isle of Dogs - safe and sound. But then the vampires attack the house, Carlyle escapes, leaving his wife inside, gets into his motorboat and finds his way to the the Isle, where he's reunited with his kids. But the kids are missing their mother and go to their London house to find a picture of her - it's quite complicated here, she shows up - she's a carrier of the virus but not affected by it, but Carlyle tries to kiss her (no irony here) and succumbs to the virus.

The rest of the picture is a chase of the kids and their two grownup friends. as the Americans declare a "Code Red" which means kill everyone to save the rest of the population. Sharpshooters, napalm and poison gas, you'll be surprised to hear, don't quite kill off the kids, though of course they do kill off their grownup friends, except for helicopter pilot Harold Perrineau Jr. who takes them to safety of a sort in Paris. What do I mean by 'of a sort?' It means there'll probably be yet another film, because the last shot here is of people - vampires - attacking the Tour Eiffel, though why that, unless it's to get to the tourists hanging around waiting to ascend, I don't know.

But now to the reason for thinking about "Children of Men." The problem with "28 Days Later" is that it takes a story that is a passably good vampire story and cuts it - literally cuts it - to ribbons. No shot is allowed to stay on the screen for more than a few seconds, and most are less than one second, the director's way (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) of pumping up the action. He's in the currently fashionable mode where lots of mini-shots and different camera angles, all put together, will add up to more excitement than simply holding on one shot and letting it reveal itself. Unfortunately that is almost always a disaster; it never allows the essence of the story or the people involved to relate to us; they're always just figures on the screen. We don't care about them.

And now we come to "Children of Men." That film was secure enough in itself and its story - also set in the future of an England that has come to a fascist end - that it could take all the time it wanted with every scene, knowing that we would follow Clive Owen and his friends because they were real people, not just the stick figures of "28 Days Later." There is the great moment in "Children" when the rebels roll a vacant car that's been burning onto the road in front of the getaway car; we see the thing rolling down in front of us; no cutaways here, no chip-chop of the screen. It all unfolds in real time, and it is harrowing. There is nothing like that in "28 Days Later," and that is why it gives up all its suspense without any redeeming grace.