28 Weeks Later (2007, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)

The NJ Star Ledger, of all things, says: “When you watch the early scenes of American soldiers standing night watch, using their telescopic rifle lenses to peep on their charges — Americans as leering voyeurs in the aftermath of destruction — the movie’s pulp sensibility seems to be an almost exact mirror of what many other countries think of America right now.”

It’s a good article, and yeah there’s lots of political interest in 28 Weeks Later. The idea that we can set up a safe/green zone surrounded by hostile territory and maintain those boundaries is called into question… but especially the idea that we’d be prepared if something went wrong with the plan, that our “disaster readiness” is sufficient.

The leering-voyeur soldiers go from mocking their mission (because there’s nothing to do)… to enacting their horribly ineffective containment plan (locking everyone in a room together, cutting the electricity and doing nothing about the panic that ensues, and of course not being able to ensure that rage-infected beasties can’t get inside for a feeding frenzy)… to valiantly protecting the British civilians, picking off beasties… immediately to panic when they can’t tell beastie from Brit… to all-out apocalyptic asshats, attempting to save their own butts with a kill-everyone order. After all that, it’s a pleasure to watch a few infected beasties rip apart an American sniper.

Movie doesn’t make it too easy. One super soldier won’t take the kill-all order and joins our medic friend in trying to protect the kids, even taking out his own comrades to do so. His chopper-driving buddy ain’t all bad either, at first very suspicious (even killing a survivor) but finally airlifting the kids to (ha-ha) safety.

Unfortunately it’s not all political intent, it’s also an action/horror movie, and that’s the part the filmmakers can’t get right. Sure there are moments of tension, but the close-up action is wrecked with you-are-there, extreme-close-up camerawork and, as the Star-Ledger calls it, “razor-sharp editing”. I know the editing is supposed to draw you into the crazed confusion that the victims/survivors must feel, particularly effective in the Carlyle-escape opening sequence, but if “I” was really “there”, I doubt my perspective would involve so many edits. The rest of the world hasn’t caught up with the new you-are-there long-cut technique brought to the action films by Alfonso Cuaron in Children of Men. Here in 28 Days Later I could never tell what was going on when the action supposedly revved up.

Who Were Those People:
Director of Intacto and DP of Down in the Valley and The Faculty
Robert Carlyle, who hasn’t been in shit I’ve heard of since The Beach, will be in another Irvine Welsh movie this year or next.
Alice, his wife, is Catherine McCormack of Shadow of the Vampire.
The medical rescuer is Rose Byrne of Marie Antoinette and Sunshine.
The army rescuer is Jeremy Renner of The Heart Is Deceitful.
And the two kids have the greatest names in the world: Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton.