Movie Review – “Maggie”

May 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

It’s a common trope in zombies movies these days to feature a scene where the hero hesitates before having to kill a loved one who has recently turned into one of the undead. This may only last for a minute or so, but eventually the hero gathers his or her wits, and proceeds to mercifully kill what was once their husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/brother/sister/etc. Now, imagine that one scene as the entire movie. No running from a horde of zombies, no scrambling to find shelter or supplies. Just the inevitable moment where the hero must act on the obvious – or not.

That’s the premise of Maggie, an apocalyptic zombie drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. And it works, mostly. Ahnuld plays against his type for this film, portraying a father dealing with his daughter’s eventual turn into one of the undead. The daughter, played by Abigail Breslin, knows what’s going to happen to her and is trying to live the last few days of her life as normally as possible.

A lot of attention for this film is being focused on The Governator’s low-key performance. Ever since returning to acting, Arnold’s films have mostly been what you’d expect: him spouting one-liners, shooting some guns, and generally causing mayhem. But here, he’s quiet, reserved, and I think only fires a gun once throughout this whole movie. It’s a performance that probably won’t win any awards, but is captivating to watch. Schwarzenegger’s sheer screen presence is enough to draw your eyes to him, regardless of whatever else is going on in the frame.

Abigail Breslin’s performance is also solid. I would expect the character to be heroic in some way – defiantly resisting the urge to turn and eat flesh and doing whatever she can to hold on to her humanity. Hold on she does, but also in a reserved way that plays well with Arnold’s quiet mannerisms. Breslin is still just trying to live her life by hanging out with friends, arguing with her parents. Basically, being a teenager.

Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

What really struck me was how serious the movie took its subject matter. On the surface, it’s a zombie movie, but it could really be described as a close-knit family dealing with one of its members becoming terminally ill. Replace any mentions of a zombie plague with “cancer” or some other terrible real-world illness, and the effect is similar. Regardless of the cause, this movie is about a father watching his daughter slowly die. Now tell me that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye.

Although I could easily recommend this movie to most people, a few things do prevent it from being perfect. The ending is a little unsatisfying, the pacing in the last third feels a little off, and there’s just a bit too much handheld camerawork for my taste (I get it, this is a low-budget indie film. I’m sure you can still afford a tripod, but props to director Henry Hobson and DP Lukas Ettlin for some otherwise beautiful imagery). Still, it’s an interesting movie especially for Ahnuld aficionados like myself. He may not be blasting away terminators or trying to freeze Batman to death, but it’s fun watching Arnold, you know, act in a movie.

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