Britain has been emptied. There's nobody there. It's completely dead. And six months later the Americans arrive to reboot it back up again. But, of course, something goes wrong...
28 Days Later was a traditional British science-fiction/horror movie with added smarts and innovative style. This sequel extends the story in intelligent, suspenseful ways. Simply because it’s a ‘part two’, it isn’t as fresh, but enough changes are rung to stop it feeling like a remake. Like Aliens, it ups the action scale by bringing in Yanks with big guns, which — as George Romero has often shown — means even more peril for ordinary folks caught between plague and the authorities.
With Danny Boyle and Alex Garland otherwise occupied by Sunshine, a new creative team takes over. Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, of the outstanding and unusual Intacto, evokes what Boyle did on the first film without slavishly copying him. The prologue, which takes place early in the crisis, offers an old-fashioned zombie attack as hands crash through the boarded-up windows of a besieged house. It also serves to introduce an unusual protagonist, the weasely Don (Robert Carlyle) — who puts his survival ahead of all else.
After its first burst, the film hops ahead to the aftermath and takes a few creepy reels before the action starts again — but once the Raging and blood-spitting begins it’s relentless, as panic spreads and inept attempts to eradicate the plague give a whittled-down band of survivors as many problems as the screaming infected.
The fractured British family are an interesting focus for the film: child actors Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton are terrific, while Carlyle and McCormack get the maximum impact from shifty looks, malign glares and freak-outs. The American contingent — scientist Rose Byrne, grunts Jeremy Renner and Harold Perrineau — offers thinner material, especially once everyone has to start running.
The set-pieces, however, escalate with mostly excellent results: watching it all go wrong for the military — and their desperate response — is harrowing, but the tonal shift in a scene involving a helicopter and the infected on a heath which strays into Peter Jackson/Sam Raimi comic-horror territory is less effective. Momentum is regained, though, for a strong, dark finish.
Bigger action, more amazing deserted (and devastated) London sequences and biting contemporary relevance, if a touch less heart than the original.