Director: Henry Hobson
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Douglas M. Griffin, J.D. Evermore, Rachel Whitmore Graves, Jodie Moore
Written by: John Scott 3
Running Time: 95 mins
Release date: 24th July 2015
People going into see Maggie may be just a little bit disappointed. A word of warning then. This is NOT Arnold Schwarzenegger taking on zombies in the way only Arnie can. In fact, if you expel that thought from your head and go in with an open mind, what you will get is something you would never have expected to see. A tender, touching tale of a father’s overbearing love for his daughter. Oh, and Arnold acting. Yes, you heard me right, Arnold acts!
Wade Vogel has spent two weeks looking for his missing daughter, Maggie, in a time when a deadly virus is spreading the country. Anyone infected slowly turns into a flesh-eating zombie, thus passing the disease on. Maggie has been bitten. Discovering her in a hospital, she is allowed home to spend her last days with her father and stepmother. In that time, Maggie’s health deteriorates and Wade has to make the ultimate decision.
First-time director Henry Hobson, whose past career involves making credit sequences for films, does a terrific job with the visuals. The framing is interesting and the use of colour and sound help compliment the slowly paced mood. This has the feel of an independent art house film. His use of the local scenery, of small-town farmland and the closeness of a community in shock at the devastation around them, also works very well.
At the heart of this film, though, is the relationship between father and daughter. Obviously, Hobson and screenwriter John Scott 3, use the zombie situation as a metaphor for any contagious disease or even drug usage. It might have been more believable if they had gone down the obvious path but with the material, they have delivered a reasonably touching story. If the closeness between the two does not work, then the film fails.
Thankfully, it’s the strength of the two leads that keeps this together, which surprised me more than anything. Schwarzenegger has never been known for his acting prowess. Most of the time he speaks in violence. Yet here that violence is taken away (apart from three zombie killings, two that are off-screen). So what is left is Arnold having to cope with a situation that he cannot escape with a pithy one-liner and a pull of the trigger. Instead, he must show his emotional side and, yes on the whole, it works.
The script doesn’t allow him long sequences where he has pages of monologues, so his lines are limited to just a few, yet he makes up for the lack of words with silences, looks and gestures. These are plenty for him to convey a man who refuses to give up on his love. It also helps that Abigail Breslin, who has grown into a decent actress after first exploding onto our screens in Little Miss Sunshine, is rather good as the title character. Coping with a fear of dying and the knowledge that she will turn eventually, she holds the emotional cards well and the scenes with Arnold work.
A simple hug is almost heartbreaking and the ending, with Maggie standing over the sleeping Wade, has more tension than most horror films can ever muster. Although this isn’t a horror film. It might come across as one but there is very little gore, some graphic images but nothing on par with most other zombie films. This is a drama that happens to be about zombies.
Maggie surprised me hugely. Yes, the pace needs to quicken and yes, it’s not the film that people expect it to be but that’s a good thing. Predictability can be a dull thing indeed and Maggie is far from that. Arnold will never win an Oscar (unless it’s an honorary one) but you have to give him credit for trying to dispose of the persona that he is most familiar. I would say, he did a fine job. I’d even go as far as saying his best film in a very long time.