Sunday, April 26, 2015

“Maggie”– Movie Review



On the closing weekend of The Tribeca Film Festival, I caught a screening of the World Premiere of “Maggie”, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin and Joely Richardson. 


When a zombie plague takes hold of a small town, can a father save his daughter when she becomes infected?


Sections of the Midwest are finding themselves as breeding grounds for zombies; this area of the United States is particularly hard hit because much of it is covered with farms and the zombie plague is being spread through much of the food that’s being grown there.  As a result, the government has required controlled burns of many farmers’ crops, causing them to see much of their livelihood literally go up in smoke.   But the problem doesn’t stop there.  People are also getting infected by the zombies – in particular, it seems to be the young people who are being targeted. 

Maggie (Breslin) is one such teenager.  In the small farming community where she and her family live, she’s seeing some of her high school friends similarly impacted.  Being recently hospitalized for infection herself, her father, Wade (Scharzenegger) isn’t about to let her rot away there; against medical advice, he signs her out and takes Maggie home to be with his wife Caroline (Richardson) and Maggie’s two step-siblings.  In doing so, however, Wade is fully aware that he’s taking an enormous risk – not only is he risking his own safety, but also that of Caroline and her children.  

Because of his decision, Wade winds up facing considerable resistance from the rest of the community.  A physician who happens to be a friend of Wade pulls him aside and gives him the straight story – he has three options, none of which are terribly desirable.  The first is to let Maggie return to the hospital, where she’ll get impersonal treatment; the second is to let her stay at home, but Wade will have to administer to her the same injections she would get in the hospital – and given how violently ill the shot would make his daughter, it would be hard for him as a parent to have to see.  The third option is arguably the hardest:  Wade would have to take immediate action to end Maggie’s suffering.  But can he kill his offspring?  Presented with this Hobson’s Choice, will Wade do what is best for the greater good or will he take the more selfish route? 


It was the same old Arnold and it was a new “old” Arnold all at once.  While that statement may on its surface sound contradictory, once you see “Maggie”, it will all make sense.  On the one hand, fans of Arnold – that is to say, those who enjoyed many of the movies on which he built his successful career in Hollywood – will find much that is familiar in “Maggie”; in it, he plays the tough, rifle-toting bad-ass good-guy who will do whatever it takes to defend his family.  On the other hand, he does not make up the whole film; the story fundamentally focuses on the daughter Maggie and begs questions about whether teenagers are mature enough to make decisions based on moral or ethical situations. 

In “Maggie”, Arnold is not only allowing his muscle-bound ego to be considerably sublimated, he is also making a stab at a more dramatic, low-key character than what he has typically chosen to present to us.  The fact that the movie is ultimately more about his character’s daughter than his own character is rather telling; the fact that he’s now willing to take a backseat in addition to portraying himself as more human than cartoon character either suggests he is acknowledging his own aging or that he’s maturing creatively, much in the same way that Clint Eastwood has done in his own later years.

“Maggie” was directed by Henry Hobson, which was his first feature film.  In the context of this genre, Hobson has certainly done an extremely creditable job.  The look of “Maggie” is quite grim – scenes at the hospital are an institutional gray and the daytime skies are constantly cloudy and overcast with hardly any hint of sunshine ever.  For this movie, it works and was a perfect choice.  Also, Hobson never lets any of the performances go over the top; every one is subtle without allowing the film to be somnolent.  If you never thought you’d see an Arnold Schwarzenegger picture with nuanced characters, “Maggie” might surprise. 


Maggie (2015) on IMDb

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