Cinema Review: Maggie | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, March 24th, 2023  


Studio: Lionsgate
Directed by Henry Hobson

May 08, 2015 Web Exclusive
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The world is ending, and mankind is slowly coming to terms with the idea. For Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), it’s personal: his teenage daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), has been bitten by a zombie, and is given six to eight weeks to live before she turns into a mindless, flesh-eating monster. The girl is released from quarantine and into his custody. He takes her back to the family farm to say their goodbyes, and to watch the illness slowly rob her of her humanity.

First-time feature director Henry Hobson comes to the project with a background in impressive visual work, having crafted the eye-catching opening sequences for The Walking Dead and The Last of Us. Maggie’s color palette is dark and muted which fits the film’s relentlessly grim tone and captures a world that seems perpetually on the brink of a thunderstorm. Hobson’s attention to detail is keen: abandoned homes and businesses are filled with visual clues about the previous occupant’s lives (and, of course, deaths.) There are frequent close-ups of Maggie scratching at her infected bite wound, reminding viewers of her fate. The screenplay for Maggie sat on the Black List—an annual industry survey of the year’s best un-produced spec scripts—for several years. It’s hard to guess whether pop culture’s current oversaturation of zombies helped or hurt its cause; to its credit, its focus is more on tugging heartstrings than exploding skulls with pump-action shotgun blasts. Maggie is smart about keeping its zombies on the peripheral for as long as possible, so that when the living dead finally do show their ugly faces their presence is sufficiently unnerving.

Schwarzenegger’s performance is worth noting, as he really seems to be putting hustle into selling his character’s emotional journey. He wants to be taken seriously for his acting ability, and his delivery is noticeably softer; however, in the scenes that call for the most range, he’s as stiff as he was in his ‘80s action roles. Especially in scenes where he needs to convey his character’s devastating anguish—he’s so wooden that you can almost imagine someone just off-camera, carefully applying tears to his face with an eyedropper. (To be fair, he’s come a long way since he was hand-feeding deer with Alyssa Milano in Commando, but he still has a long way to go before he can fully sell a father-daughter relationship like the one at the heart of Maggie.)

One final note, on the actor’s famous accent: if Schwarzenegger plans to pursue more quiet, indie roles, filmmakers will either need to find ways to work a European back story into their scripts, or he will need to finally find his own workaround. In Maggie, the weirdness of a down-to-earth Midwestern man named Wade speaking in an unexplained (and still thick) Austrian accent is too distracting to ignore.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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