If you were to think of an Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring zombie film, you’d surely think of over the top violence, explosions, wooden acting and some gloriously cheesy one-liners that the actor is so famous for. Maggie, which stars the Austrian action hero as a small town farmer trying to spend as much time with his recently infected daughter before she turns, is actually the opposite of what you’d expect from an Arnie film though: a small, slow burner that is driven more by character than it is gun shots.
Written by John Scott 3, the film derives a very personal story from a hugely popular cinematic conceit. Like the work of great directors such as Steven Spielberg – although nowhere near as memorable – Maggie takes a familiar idea such as aliens, natural disasters or in this case, the living dead, and uses that simple notion as a way of exploring human relationships.
Much like Jaws isn’t about a shark and Close Encounters of the Third Kind isn’t about aliens, Maggie isn’t about zombies, but rather a father-daughter bond that is put to the test through the most unusual of circumstances. Despite featuring one or two moments of Arnie on zombie violence, Maggie is strictly a family drama and is all the better for it.
The moody cinematography from Lukas Ettlin, who uses a palate of dull greys and browns to hammer home the hopelessness and misery of the situation that the characters find themselves in, adds an unexpected layer of macabre beauty and takes on a character of its own. Complimented with a touching score, the film looks and sounds better than I was expecting, and the two make Maggie a melancholy experience.
Schwarzenegger is a particular highlight and plays a character unlike anybody he’s played before. Unlike his other self-parodying roles in films like The Expendables, this sees Arnie embrace his age and play somebody with three dimensions. Don’t get me wrong, his performance isn’t revelatory or award winning by any degree, but it’s still a thoughtful and contemplative piece of acting that involves more than simply punching and shooting people.
What stops Maggie from fufilling its potential is that it doesn’t quite have the heartbreaking impact that the film hints at throughout. Ending on a frustratingly disappointing note, the film does seems to take the easy way out and an opportunity for a much more emotional and tense conclusion seems squandered.
For some, the ending of Maggie, as well as its slow pace, will perhaps prove dissatisfying – especially if you go in expecting lots of gore and action. I liked how different it was though and admired the attempts to tell a smaller story against the backdrop of a large one. The performances are great, as is the look and sound of the film, but whilst satisfying at the time, it won’t take long for Maggie to disappear from your thoughts.
Image credit to http://www.indiewire.com