As Henry Hobson’s Maggie begins, it instantly takes on the form of a film we’ve seen countless times before, and have had an abundance of recently: the zombie flick. We have the generic opening montage where faux news reports explain what the situation is, how this illness is spreading amongst the masses, causing people to “turn”. It’s all too obvious and becoming a tired concept in contemporary cinema, especially when presented in such formulaic fashion.
And then Arnold Schwarzenegger crops up. Protecting his daughter (yawn) and driving through an unforgiving, bleak landscape, only to stop by a desolate petrol station, and be forced to murder a lone man, overcome with illness, looking like everything we have grown to expect from the cinematic imagining of a zombie. Yawn again. But then something amazing happens and suddenly this film breaks free of its shackles, and it becomes a magnetic, compelling family drama that revels in subtlety and its understated narrative. Suddenly this film that appeared to be everything we’ve seen so many times before, is unlike anything else out there.
Arnie plays Wade Vogel, the beleaguered father of our eponymous protagonist, portrayed by Abigail Breslin. The youngster has been infected, and returns to her father’s Midwest abode, which he shares with his partner Caroline (Joely Richardson). With the police on the family’s back to take Maggie away into quarantine, Wade remains resolute that she stays right where she is, but as her condition worsens and she becomes aggressive, they have to make a decision about her future – and fast.
Hobson should be commended for his fine balancing act in this endeavour, as while the surrealistic edge that derives from the zombie outbreak is prevalent, at its core this title is a family drama, and maintains its sense of intimacy throughout, in spite of the immensity of the narrative at hand. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger turns in a nuanced display, in a more tender offering than we’re used to seeing from the experienced performer. It might sound crazy, but while he’s entertaining the masses by revisiting his renowned Terminator role, there really is only one Arnie film worth seeing this month, and it’s most certainly not that one.