Maggie is a poignant, powerful and heartbreaking film with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin both giving the performances of their careers.
Drama starts out in a world being stricken by the Necronambulist Virus which is affecting crops and humans alike. Crops die while humans become vicious and violent with cannibalistic tendencies. In the middle of it all, teen Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) runs away from her farm home to the city and is bitten by one of the infected. Her father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) pulls some strings to get his daughter out of hospital quarantine to bring her home. With maybe only days, Maggie is slowly turning into one of the infected and despite the danger she may soon become, Wade is determined to be by his daughter’s side…even if it means defying the authorities that would see Maggie back in quarantine and destroyed.
Those expecting to see the Austrian Oak wading into armies of zombies with some huge caliber weapon will be sorely disappointed. As written by John Scott III and directed by Henry Hobson this is not a horror movie, but a quiet story of a father’s unending love for his daughter under the most horrific of circumstances…and as such is a poignant and utterly heart-wrenching tale. Hobson sets up the desolation and hopelessness of the situation quickly with some impressive and effective shots of burning crops and deserted city streets. This establishes the pervading atmosphere as we meet Wade Vogel in the hospital trying to get his runaway daughter and bring her home. He is sending his younger children away and he and Maggie’s stepmother (Joely Richardson), bring her back home, prepared for the worst. Hobson then delivers a subtle yet powerful tale of a young woman changing into something out of a nightmare and a father who is already in that nightmare but refuses to give up on his little girl. It is one of the most heartbreaking films I had seen in some time as we are shown the torment young Maggie suffers, as she knows what she is becoming and what she will be capable of, while her father suffers the anguish of watching it happen to one of the people he loves most. It is a story usually set for chills and thrills…though we get a lot of those…but instead is about unconditional love and sacrifice… and there is a subtle beauty to the emotional story at its core, despite the outer horror film trappings.
On a technical side the film is moderately paced and that works perfectly with the nature of the story. It also knows not to waste time or hang around too long at slightly over 90 minutes. The cinematography by Lukas Ettlin is perfectly moody, the make-up portraying Maggie’s slow and tortuous transformation are excellent and there is a simple and atmospheric score by David Wingo.
As for the cast…wow! Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the performance of his career. He is simply amazing, especially in comparison to the type of movies we are normally used to seeing him in. He has a smoldering intensity that is mixed perfectly with the pain and sadness of a parent watching his child slowly become something inhuman. He is absolutely haunting. Abigail Breslin is borderline brilliant as a young woman facing a horrible fate yet doing it with strength and dignity. She knows what she is to become, and she conveys the fear, confusion and terror perfectly, yet not without compassion towards the ones she loves…as she knows full well what danger she will soon be to them. Equally haunting is that she is trying to enjoy the warm embrace of the people she loves and take solace from it as long as she can…even though it ultimately won’t help…and she knows it. Schwarzenegger and Breslin also have an onscreen chemistry together that is simply magic. As for the rest, Richardson is also strong as the stepmother who wants to be there, but whose love is becoming more overwhelmed by fear each day. Also really effective is Jodie Moore as Wade’s sympathetic doctor Vern, who buys time for the Vogels with the looming authorities and Douglas M. Griffin as the sheriff, who is an old family friend and also tries to give Wade the time he needs to say goodbye.
I was blown away by this movie. Not only are there some wonderful performances and direction, but the film carries an emotional intensity that is powerful and effecting. Maggie packs a punch despite operating in subtly and is all the more refreshing for it. This is not a zombie movie, nor an action movie, but an intimate portrayal of a slow and horrifying transformation and the effect it has on the subject and those around them. It’s a powerful and emotionally draining film with a movie icon, as we have never seen him before…and more good work from a star on the rise. A great indie movie with some remarkable performances. Henry Hobson is a filmmaker to watch for sure! One of the best movies of the year and I can’t recommend it enough.
No puns or jokes here, a solid 4-star movie.