It is a rare pleasure when a first feature film for both the director and screenwriter is worthy of my praise. I don’t withhold praise where it is due but all too often it is hard to summon comprehensive credit for virgin ventures. I found MAGGIE to be a film of such nuance, beauty and reach that I could hardly believe that it was both Director Henry Hobson and screenwriter John Scott 3’s first feature film. In fact, John Scott 3 (yes, that is how he writes his name), has absolutely no prior credits to his name of any kind (which I was able to find) and his name is so unusual I seriously suspect if he is actually someone super famous trying to be arty and sneaky.
To call MAGGIE a zombie movie is a gross oversimplification. Technically, yes, the film revolves around Maggie (Abigail Breslin) who has been bitten by an infected individual with a zombie-like illness. They are not the fast roach-like zombies of WORLD WAR Z nor are the THE WALKING DEAD. They look like hell and move slowly, turning black from the inside out. Maggie has been brought home to die, against the usual protocol, by her father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Schwarzenegger is good, and in that I don’t just mean good for Schwarzenegger, I mean he is appropriately cast (easy to do if you happen to be one of the producers) and he comes across as a real person not an inflated old superhero. His acting is believable as a caring, committed father facing every parent’s worst nightmare. The beauty of MAGGIE is that the necrotizing illness is only a handy, trendy visual metaphor for a number of all too real illnesses that patients of all ages and their caregivers have to face every day. The story would work just as effectively for Alzheimer’s, cancer or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but a zombie virus is a current and handy metaphor; it is quick, visualy disturbing and wildly frightening.
MAGGIE is about love, risk and choice. Set in a seemingly bucolic rural area, Maggie’s decline is never minimized by urban chaos and masses of staggering walking corpses. Rather it is inescapable because of the beauty of her surroundings. Having been initially placed in a hospital quarantine unit, Wade fights the establishment for his daughter’s sake – and his own – and the film once again could be delivering the sterile harshness of any number of chronic illness and how dehumanizing the treatment process is to most people. Bringing Maggie home risks Wade’s new children with his second wife played briefly but powerfully be Joely Richardson. It is a choice she understands but hates and it powerfully underscores the agonizing choices we must all confront in life where there seems to be no “good” choice, only a bed and less bad one. Maggie’s return home send waves of anger and resistance through the area and does allow Schwarzenegger to display a bit of brutality in the name of love for his child.
MAGGIE looks like an old faded photograph, bluish and blunted and it’s art direction works well. There is no need for technicolor garishness here and it allows the story to be our sole focus. The screenplay handles heavy material well; what threatens us, what strange and dark things bring us together but also separate us? How do you make seemingly impossible choices? Where do you draw the line and, in doing so, who do you put at risk? MAGGIE is the cerebral emotional zombie flick and it works well. You have never seen Schwarzenegger like this before but I certainly look forward to seeing him in a role like this again. Weighty, honest and stoic, we empathize with his Wade completely and champion his choices and dedication to his child. Be warned – this film one will linger in your psyche well beyond its compact 95 minutes. And, as Oprah says, that’s a good thing.(3.5 / 5)
Director: Henry Hobson
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
Running Time: 95 minutes
MAGGIE Movie Review