A zombie film that has Arnold Schwarzenegger slap bang in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world of flesh eaters sounds about the only film he hasn’t loaded up into his blockbuster-toting armory. The trick with Maggie though, is that it distances itself from the rotting tropes of undead focussed films, and that’s exactly why it shows so much promise for the Austrian Oak.
Of course, promises can easily be broken and whilst the idea is a great one, it struggles to delve into the idea it helps to build. Schwarzenegger plays troubled pops (no, not that one), Wade Vogel who is trying to keep his world from falling apart thanks to the disease that’s tearing across the globe. Known as ‘The Turn’, folks are having their blood shift to an inky-like state, their eyes go milky white and their appetites lean more towards live flesh – and Wade’s daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is one of more recent carriers. Being slowly defeated by this disease, Wade is forced to watch his daughter turn to the dark and undead side, whilst battling with the idea of whether to simply put her out of her misery for good.
Standing as the directorial début for Henry Hobson, Maggie is a gorgeous looking film that overdoses on the sombre situation it creates. Sure, a zombie invasion is no picnic and neither is a father watching his daughter get hungry for human, but the message is hammered in with every scene, met with an ambient bit of music that accompanies when silence would have spoken volumes instead. Striking shots of Maggie picking at her infected bite mark would have hit a much stronger chord if Breslin’s weeping filled the scene and not a haunting and overused tune, but she thankfully succeeds regardless.
Sold more of a film for Schwarzenegger than the girl that’s playing the titular role, Breslin is the real attraction of the piece, accepting her impending demise and the battle with herself to risk interrupting nature to take its course. The father daughter relationship isn’t too solid but there are a few fleeting moments she shares with her co-star that make an impact.
As for action hero of a Dad, Arnie’s forlorn and frightened Wade is a refreshing thing to see from the big-screen icon, and shares it wonderfully with Breslin. Separating himself from the macho man we’ve come to love him as, Schwarzenegger instead stretches acting muscles we never knew he had and doesn’t do badly at all. If this is the beginning of a man finally acting his age, it’s a promising start. Stick at it, Arnie.