May 8, 2015
John Scott 3
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade
Abigail Breslin as Maggie
Joely Richardson as Caroline
Maggie is a zombie story that’s been billed and marketed as a horror film. Features centered on the undead typically are, and there are no doubt horror elements to this particular story. But when all is said and done, and you strip away the outer layer of suggestion, this is a drama through and through. What may surprise some even more, is the fact that it’s an insanely melancholy drama. It’s jut really, really sad and the fathers around the world – whether we’re facing an actual zombie outbreak or not – are going to feel the film on an entirely different level. I’ve got a daughter just a few years younger than Abigail Breslin (who portrays the titular character), and this one damn near had me in tears on numerous occasions. I felt something very genuine for Schwarzenegger’s character, and that came as a staggering surprise.
There isn’t much to dish on in regards to the story itself. Maggie is an extremely straight forward piece about a man – Wade – whose daughter Maggie (the aforementioned Breslin) has been bitten by a zombie. As is expected Maggie begins a physical transformation, and Wade, who lives in a rural farming region, is determined to keep her home with him, away from the city where quarantines have been setup to corral and kill the infected. When Maggie’s time comes, Wade wants her to go on familiar soil. It’s a simple character study that plays on the bond between father and daughter, and it’s amazing.
It’s very rare that we see all stars align for any film. But Maggie is a bright sky that sparkles in a way that commands attention and respect. From the perfectly appropriate set locations to the magnificent cinematography (huge respect goes out to Lukas Ettlin who offers us one stunning image after another) to John Scott 3’s engrossing screenplay to Abigail Breslin’s spirited performance as a teenager who knows her existence – not just her youth – is doomed, Maggie is a terrific taste of celluloid that earns an immediate place amongst the year’s best. Sure we’ve got six months left. That doesn’t change the fact that there won’t be many pictures released in 2015 that entertain the way Maggie entertains.
All that said, the big story here is Arnold Schwarzenegger. For decades Schwarzenegger has thrilled in action roles. He’s made quite the name for himself kicking asses and blowing bad guys away with preposterously large weaponry. It is his specialty. Or so we thought. The truth is, “The Governator” outshines every last performer in the film, leaving us to wonder how many dramatic treasures the living legend may have given us over the years. His emotional responses feel authentic, his approach to the nightmare as a whole is extremely believable and the manner in which he sells the dedicated but distraught father is stellar. Many of us grew a little leery after learning the man would be fronting a dramatic piece that didn’t include 300,000 rounds of ammunition and a gallon of war paint, but as it turns out, any early fan trepidation was ill invested.Maggie offers Schwarzenegger the chance to prove he’s a lot more than a one dimensional action star, and prove it he does.
Director Henry Hobson delivers a special film in Maggie. It deviates from the norm on a constant basis, and while it isn’t overflowing with the action some subgenre fanatics may crave, the trade-off for a supremely impressive story is more than a reasonable compromise. Great stories and great films live on much longer than temporary cheap thrills. I’ll take an emotional masterpiece over a decent action oriented zombie film any day of the week. Movies like Maggie will call to me time and again in the coming years, movies like [REC] 4 can be fun, but they won’t find themselves on my personal radar too often. You want to see a brilliant zombie pic? See Maggie.
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