- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ten minutes into “28 Weeks Later” and you know this isn’t just a cash-in on the 2002 predecessor.

Eighty or so minutes later, you might change your mind.

The sequel to director Danny Boyle’s terrific “28 Days Later” starts out strong, introduces some intriguing concepts, then stumbles toward a bland conclusion. And that’s before the obligatory “28 Months Later” setup.

Can’t these dead stay dead?

Of course, the creepies in the 2002 film weren’t your typical rise-from-the-grave zombies. The were just folks, as Bill O’Reilly would say, who got infected by a rage virus and turned into flesh-hungry beasts.

The sequel picks up, as the title and some speedy prologue notes tell us, after the virus has run its course in England.

A NATO force led by the U.S. military sweeps in and attempts to repopulate London. Among those ready to return home are Don (Robert Carlyle), a father of two who left his wife under some unusual circumstances. To say more would spoil the first scene, which may be the best horror opening in years.

Father and children reunite — the kiddies were traveling out of country when the virus struck — and the repopulation effort seems to be sailing along.

But one survivor harbors the virus within her, and it isn’t long before a new wave of innocents is infected.

When they break loose, the armed forces overseeing the repopulation respond with fury.

Among those trying to keep the peace are a kindhearted sniper (Jeremy Renner) and a helicopter pilot (“Lost’s” Harold Perrineau) overseeing what could be a massacre.

The heart of the new tale, though, belongs to Don’s children, played by relative newcomers Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots.

That’s not the best strategy, for the telegenic duo isn’t enough to keep us engaged. And the more enthralling characters have a way of dying before their time.

Director/co-writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who previously gave us the intriguing 2001 film “Intacto,” establishes a creepy realism in the early sequences. He also leans hard on Mr. Carlyle to anchor his story, and the wiry Scotsman obliges.

The franchise milks London’s empty streets once more, and the visual still packs a wallop. What’s frustrating, though, is Mr. Fresnadillo’s inability to put his dramatic punches together.

What works best, beyond the shaky camerawork which signals the zombies’ attack mode, is the musical refrain which creeps into the score at key moments. It’s gorgeous and haunting, and it lends the horrors of the opening sequence a surreal sense of beauty.

“28 Weeks Later” cannot stack up to its predecessor, but the ambitious sequel tries to till fresh ground on which the zombies can roam.

**1/2

TITLE: “28 Weeks Later”

RATING: R (Gore, violence, disturbing imagery and adult language)

CREDITS: Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Screenplay by Rowan Joffe, Jesus Olmo, E.L. Lavigne and Mr. Fresnadillo. Executive produced by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland.

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

WEB SITE: www.28weekslatermovie.co.uk/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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