I’m not sure if the dots are really necessary, but that’s how the title’s listed on imdb. Now, maybe some of you haven’t seen the first movie, 28 Days Later (not to be confused with the Sandra Bullock film, 28 Days, because except for the titles, they have no similarities whatsoever), but that really doesn’t matter. There are no characters returning from the first film, unless you count the poor beleaguered city of London, and all you really need to know is explained in the captions at the beginning.
Just a slightly longer summary here, so you can keep reading the review: Some scientists, who apparently thought they could cure the human race of anger and thus stop war and violence (scientists really aren’t very practical sometimes), created a virus that induced rage — blind, uncontrollable rage. “In order to cure, you must first understand,” says one scientist, shortly before an infected human tears his throat out. I’m not sure this virus angle was the best way to go about their little project, but okay. The virus is unleashed on an unsuspecting British public, and the island is quickly decimated. A small band of survivors join forces, have a nasty run-in with Christopher Eccleston, and we have a happy ending in learning that the virus was, at least, contained on the island, where it eventually dies off naturally.
Or does it? The chief medical officer (Rose Byrne) of the NATO team now helping to resettle the island isn’t sure that they can relax yet, and of course her worst fears are realized. You see, the virus’ effects are apparent within seconds of contamination, usually by a bite, so it should obvious who has it and who doesn’t. Except it isn’t.
|See? Anyone would run from a bunch of those things.|
Don (Robert Carlyle, of The Full Monty and The World is Not Enough) is waiting to welcome his kids — they were on a school trip abroad when all hell broke loose, and are now returning home. But Don is racked with guilt over the fate of his wife, Alice (Catherine McCormack, perhaps still best known to U.S. audiences as Mel Gibson’s ill-fated wife in Braveheart), who he left to the mercy of creatures who have none. Now, I think that we get so used to people in horror/survival movies coming up with some last-second trick to save others that we forget that sometimes there really isn’t anything to be done. So when someone fails to manage such a trick, we end up labelling them cowards. But whether that’s true here or not, Don is terribly ashamed.
And in this kind of movie, my friends, guilt and shame will kill you, and probably lots of other people as well. Like its predecessor, the movie goes for a pretty realistic look — these are ordinary people, not models, and they react in normal ways. So when Don gives in to his guilt, you understand completely why he’s doing it, even though you know it’s the worst possible thing he could do. The infection is unleashed again.
Don’s kids, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton — and yes, I think those must be their real names) now have to scramble to survive, as the virus again spreads like wildfire and the troops (led by Idris Elba, one of the few good things about The Reaping, though he has only a very small part here) fight to regain control. You can tell they had a lot more budget this time — they get to block off much larger and busier parts of London, not to mention firebombing major landmarks in convincing fashion. Sadly, they also gave in to the always horrible temptation to do MORE without worrying about whether it’s better or not — not often, but when they do, they really give in. Remember what I said about the scene at the end of The Hitcher, how it was probably the most gruesome film death I’d ever seen? I have to demote that to second place now. Two words: helicopter blades. The squeamish should look away when you see it coming, and you will.
I was very nervous going in, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. In spite of all the Americans running around, it still has the same sort of English feel as the first film — there isn’t as much incidental music as there is just background noise, giving it an edgy feel, and having more of an ensemble cast instead of a couple of stars really works well. I didn’t even mind the kids, and usually I hate it when child actors have to carry much of the plot, as they do here. But they’re good actors, so they do pretty well.
I can’t say the same for the camera work, though — it’s as choppy and confusing as anything in The Bourne Supremacy, and might cause motion sickness. There’s a scene where the kids and the medical officer are walking through a pitch-dark building, with only the night-vision scope of a rifle to guide them, which is easily as creepy as Clarice stumbling through that basement in Silence of the Lambs, but is then spoiled when things start to happen and I can’t even tell who they’re happening to.
Overall, though, I’ll give this one three idols. It’s over-the-top gruesome where it doesn’t need to be (I’m still cringing over the helicopter incident, and then there was the totally unnecessary eye-gouge, presumably to mirror a similar scene in the first film… which was also unnecessary) and I hope that NATO troops really aren’t as slow as they are here. It seemed to take them at least an hour to find two kids riding around on a Moped on otherwise totally deserted streets. But the film does draw you in and keep you jumping in sympathy with the characters, and the acting is very good. I still wish they could have fit Christopher Eccleston in somehow, but you can’t have everything.