Director: Henry Hobson
Writer: John Scott III
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Douglas M. Griffin, J.D. Evermore, Rachel Whitman Groves, Jodie Moore, Bryce Romero, Raeden Greer, Aiden Flowers, Carsen Flowers, Amy Brassette
Running Time: 95 min.
By Kyle Warner
I don’t get the zombie craze. However, I do like that it’s given storytellers the chance to experiment with genre and try new things. Maggie is one of the most interesting films to come out of the zombie boom, a sad drama about a family dealing with a child’s terminal illness in a world that’s given up hope.
The film’s setup is the usual zombie stuff, but it quickly becomes apparent that the execution is different this time. There’s a virus going around. It turns people into zombies but it goes beyond that, killing crops and infecting the earth. The world is barely clinging on and everywhere you go farmers are burning their crops and the dead are locked behind closed doors.
Here’s the main thing that sets Maggie apart: the film cares about the infected. Some people wonder if zombie films are popular because it allows human characters to kill each other while dehumanizing the infected on the other end of the gun barrel, like it provides some kind of sick thrill without the guilt of seeing a healthy, normal dude getting his brains splattered on the wall. That could be part of it but I’m sure it doesn’t explain every zombie fan’s fascination with their favorite genre. I just know that most zombie films feature the infected as little more than monsters fit for shooting, bashing, stabbing, and setting ablaze. In Maggie, the infected are our family and neighbors, and that feels like it matters.
The film opens with Arnold picking up his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) from the hospital. She’s been bitten. She probably shouldn’t even be turned over to her family, but the police are trusting the family to do the right thing when the time comes. Maggie will turn in approximately eight weeks. At that time, they must notify the police, who will take Maggie to the quarantine center. The only other responsible alternative is to do the deed themselves. (There’s hopeful talk about a cure, but this is mostly fairy tale stuff. The quarantine center is where the infected go to die. And they die painfully.) Maggie’s family spends what time they have left with their daughter while counting the days and watching her get sicker and sicker. When the time comes, will the father be able to kill his daughter? Is there any hope for a happy ending?
Maggie is more of a drama than a horror film, but it simply could not work without the horror parts of its DNA. It’s a sad film, surprisingly heartfelt and real. The film is anchored by two great leads in Schwarzenegger and Breslin. When you see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s making a zombie movie, your natural first thought would be that he’s preparing to kick zombie ass. Indeed, some posters for the film show explosions and weaponry not featured in the film. Instead of Arnold cancelling the apocalypse, Maggie gives him one of his most dramatic, human characters ever. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rarely been this restrained, playing a defeated man who knows that the worst is yet to come. As he approaches 70, Arnold may be forced to experiment more with his roles. Maggie is an unexpected choice, yet it yields interesting results. Here’s hoping we see more dramatic performances of this level from the actor in the future.
Though Arnold’s the easy name to talk about, it’s actually Abigail Breslin that delivers the best performance here. Since earning an Oscar nod for Little Miss Sunshine, the actress has been one of the better young talents in film. One can never tell how a talented child actor is going to transition to a grown-up actor, but Breslin seems to be doing all right. Her work in Maggie – essentially playing a terminally ill youth whose sickness will make her inhuman – is one of the most interesting characters in the zombie subgenre. The sadness and surprising sweetness shared between actors Breslin and Schwarzenegger is what makes the movie stick with you after it’s over.
I really liked Maggie. It’s not perfect and one wonders if the PG-13 rating holds the movie back some, but it’s a compelling and strange little film that I keep thinking about in the week since I watched it. It’s easily the most human zombie tale I’ve seen and it’s one of my favorites from the overcrowded genre.
Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10