Film reviews

Film review: Maggie – Arnie shines in unconventional zombie drama

Schwarzenegger plays a farmer desperate to save his daughter

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 8:00am

In his best performance of the post-Governator era, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the protective father of a teenage girl dying from an incurable virus, in a film that eschews traditional zombie movie expectations in favour of a more character-driven drama.

Not since 1985’s Commando has Arnie been forced to take up arms to save his daughter. While in that Reagan-era bloodbath he took down a small Latin American nation singlehandedly, Maggie pits him against a small Kansas community threatening to tear his family apart.

After a “necro-ambulant virus” sweeps the nation, zombies become a genuine threat. The infected have about a month before “the turn”, when they must be handed over to quarantine. But when farmer Wade Vogel (Schwarzenegger) learns that his oldest child, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), has been bitten, he swears to protect her, whatever the cost.

First-time director Henry Hobson treats zombification like a terminal illness, and the long transformation period gives his characters plenty of time to agonise over their fates. Casting Schwarzenegger not only demands something more nuanced from the action icon than audiences will have seen, it also accentuates Wade’s frustration and helplessness over Maggie’s inevitable change.

Short on scares but not without moments of bloody violence, Maggie paints a moody, grounded portrait of a community facing impending doom. And in defying the expectations of both Schwarzenegger and zombie fans, the film achieves something fresh and innovative in a sub-genre struggling to shed the stench of decay.

Maggie opens on November 4