Movie Review: “Maggie” – Schwarzenegger’s Transformation

Written by Jesse Gelinas May 15, 2015

Schwarzenegger and Breslin in Maggie

People tend to have strong opinions about Arnold Schwarzenegger. You love him, you hate him. he’s an action god; he’s a horrid actor. You think he got where he by lifting heavy things in his speedo. Any of these things may be true, but be assured, he’s not stupid. This is a man who made a fortune before Hollywood even knew who he was. A man who after a career busting one-liners and handling oversized guns secured a governorship of the most populated state in the US. AND managed to marry a Kennedy along the way. Now, after a long layoff, and a rather pathetic action comeback, Arnold is finally flexing his acting muscles in the zombie-drama “Maggie.” The results are truly something to see.

“Maggie” begins in the aftermath of a global viral outbreak. The Necroambulist virus mirrors the standard zombie symptoms we all know and love, except it takes weeks to turn. The world is recovering as the virus has essentially been contained, and life is beginning to get back to normal. Maggie (Abigail Breslin), recently infected, runs away from home and leaves a message for her dad, Wade (Schwarzenegger), not to come looking. Wade finds his daughter at the hospital, and is allowed to take her home, with the promise that he returns her to quarantine within eight weeks. What follows is a tragic countdown, as father and daughter are forced to reconcile with her impending transformation, and the dangers if Wade can’t do what’s necessary.

“She’ll lose her appetite. Then she’ll get it right back.”

Right from the opening scene you are assured that “Maggie” has no happy ending. This isn’t a race against the clock to find a cure or vaccine. Maggie’s fate is sealed as soon as she is bitten, and all we and her father can do it watch the virus destroy who she is, and wait for the inevitable. Unlike other zombie movies where it takes only hours to turn, Maggie’s transformation comes slow over about eight weeks. This already makes the film a unique case. Further separating it from the genre is the fact tat the “zombie apocalypse” is already over by the time we meet Maggie and Wade. The virus is (almost) contained and life continues. So contrasting Wade and Maggie’s doomed situation, we’re also seeing their neighbors and friends attempt to piece their own lives back together.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Maggie

There is a distinct lack of gore in the film. Maggie’s attack is shown in rapidly edited flashback, and no actual bite is shown. Three other zombies are dispatched throughout, one of which is off-camera. This isn’t an action-packed ride to the finish, but a slow-burn, much like the virus itself, slowly unfolding across the increasingly grey, dreary days. I was actually quite impressed to see a zombie film with so little blood and death onscreen. While we’ve been watching “The Walking Dead” get bloodier every season (not that I’m knocking it, gore and character coexist on AMC’s series), “Maggie” achieves the same level of heart and emotion, drawn from the father-daughter relationship, without resorting to shocking scenes, or cheap scares.

“Quarantine rules apply to everybody, Wade.”

Where the film really sets itself apart is Arnold. The man who (prior to his political career) was best known for playing stone-faced cyborgs or one-man armies, does a complete about-face and turns in an impressive, low-key performance. Schwarzenegger’s Wade is a fragile man, not a superhero. He’s a broken father just trying to keep it together long enough to do right by his daughter while she’s still around. He also lends the film its only real star power, and yet isn’t even distracting. It’s the first time since maybe the first “Terminator” where I didn’t feel like I was watching Arnold be Arnold, but watching a character develop before me.

Schwarzenegger in Maggie

Even if you’re not a fan of the zombie genre, I highly recommend anyone to make an effort to see “Maggie.” At the very least you will appreciate Schwarzenegger’s efforts to fill a legitimate acting role in a perfectly rounded non-action film. It may surprise some, but the truth is that he has never been a truly bad actor, more a victim of circumstance. This dramatic turn may just be the boost he needs for people to start taking him seriously again. And honestly, I’m excited to see what may come from it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Maggie poster

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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