Maggie

| July 7, 2015

The 2015 film, Maggie, is like an after school special for the post-apocalypse. It treats its central world-ending zombification virus like a disease-of-the-week TV movie might treat AIDS. Indeed, if you replace teenage runaway Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) being bitten by a zombie with her contracting AIDS from a used needle or something, and much of the treatment of her struggles throughout could be presented the exact same way.

The film opens with Maggie’s father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) retrieving her from the big city, where she’s being treated for the Necroambulist virus, which turns people into zombies. After the designated eight weeks of home care, it will eventually fall on Wade to take Maggie to a quarantine facility, where she’ll be terminated by the authorities in one of the most painful, drawn-out ways possible. The bulk of the film centers on this home care element, as Maggie slowly turns undead and Wade struggles with the choice he’s going to have to make at the end of Maggie’s human life. And since the Vogels live on a farm well outside of the city, the characters are allowed to come to terms with their dilemma in relative isolation. This is not the sort of cinematic isolation that bolsters horror though. This is the isolation of tragedy. Discrimination, fear, missed connections, and the threat of a tortuous demise for anyone afflicted with the Necroambulist virus weigh heavily on Wade and Maggie.

In this, Maggie’s really a tragedy about making impossible choices as all the characters’ options are laid out before us throughout the course of the film. Wade could let the government take Maggie away, he could futilely fight them to keep her at his side no matter how much she wants to eat his flesh, or he could take her life himself. And what kind of decision is that? Fortunately for Wade, the script all but abandons his dilemma when the film awkwardly switches central protagonists from Wade to Maggie about halfway through the proceedings. Unfortunately for us, this take agency out of Wade’s hands and the action of the conclusion makes the resolution of Wade’s conflict all too easy, as if writer John Scott 3 simply couldn’t bring himself to trouble Wade any longer. It’s an incredibly cheesy and sentimental conclusion that undermines and diffuses the immense tension of the preceding action, and in maybe a minute and a half undoes all the brilliant work that went into the setup.

And there is indeed brilliance to be found in Maggie. For one, Schwarzenegger is better now than he’s ever been, and Maggie is a testament to the man’s immense growth as a performer these past few years—a trend I noted in my review of Escape Plan as well. First-time feature filmmaker Henry Hobson’s style and Schwarzenegger’s performance marry beautifully throughout as Schwarzenegger plays his role close to the chest while Hobson allows us to move languidly through the world of Maggie. This gives us ample time to ruminate on the choices that lie ahead for the characters, thereby creating tension even when nothing of note is happening onscreen. If only the whole affair didn’t culminate in a sentimental, fading-to-white, whimper of an ending.

While perhaps not worth owning outright as a result of this conclusion, I would, however, recommend it as a rental if for no other reason than to marvel at Schwarzenegger’s maturing skills. The film is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Special features on the home video release include a “Making Maggie” featurette, a deleted scene, cast and crew interviews, a trailer gallery, and audio commentary with director Henry Hobson.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).

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