Directed by: Henry Hobson || Produced by: Colin Bates, Joey Tufaro, Matthew Baer, Bill Johnson, Ara Keshishian, Trevor Kaufman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Screenplay by: John Scott 3 || Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, Douglas M. Griffin, J.D. Evermore, Rachel Whitman, Jodie Moore, Bryce Romero
Music by: David Wingo || Cinematography by: Lukas Eettlin || Edited by: Jane Rizzo || Country: United States, Switzerland || Language: English
Running Time: 95 minutes
How many living legends can attest to being a seven-time Mr. Olympia, having starred in such action classics as Predator (1987), The Terminator (1984) and Terminator II: Judgement Day (1991), starred in comedy-hybrids like Kindergarten Cop (1990), True Lies (1994), and Jingle All the Way (1996), being elected (and re-elected) governor of the great state of California, and truly not giving two fucks about what the general public thinks of you well into their 60’s? Without a doubt, the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger has a determination and honest star persona that is quite rare among pop culture icons and Hollywood stars of his status. He refuses to give up and be pigenholed into any one genre or career path, and his acting roles reflect that.
Enter Maggie, a low-budget indie-drama about a dreary, near-apocalyptic zombie plague that sweeps the countryside, where the Governator himself portrays an average-joe father struggling to care for his dying titular daughter (Abigail Breslin), who has become infected by the plague. What follows is a low-key, subdued story about a father-daughter relationship struggling to come to terms with the latter’s mortality. First and foremost it is about a parent’s worse nightmare —- a parent seeing their children fall apart and die before their very eyes and a protective father’s instinct to safeguard his child until his child is no more. The film also depicts and empathizes with Breslin’s suffering, which gives the story valuable duality and depth. This insight into Breslin’s doomed character makes this relationship feel real and reverberates off of Scwharzenegger’s lead, reflecting two sides of the same helplessness.
One thing that no one can fault this film for is its original concept. The setting of a recovering or decaying society via plague or zombification is certainly nothing new, but this film’s thematic approach to the subject matter and its casting are. While the film does feature a few zombies here and there, it is neither an action-picture nor a thriller nor even a horror film. It is a dramatic feature through and through, despite its presence of the undead or Schwarzenegger’s reputation. The story is slow and very sad, but never depressing or boring. I found myself invested in the characters the entire time and cared for their fate, and there were several genuinely tense moments throughout the story.
Speaking of those characters, Schwarzenegger delivers as a sympathetic father looking out for his equally sympathetic daughter. Breslin is as reliable as always (viewers may remember her from such mainstream hits as Little Miss Sunshine  and Zombieland ), and demonstrates some great physical acting as well as some seriously creepy makeup effects.
Much of what makes this drama so interesting and where I don’t get all the mixed reviews is how the zombification-aspect of the plot increases the stakes for both our main characters. Not only is Breslin’s condition terminal and contagious, but her illness requires her to be executed at some point before she becomes a danger to others. This forces Schwarzenegger to make the choice of either committing her to an ominously named “Quarantine”-zone where the infected suffer out of sight till their last breath, or take her death into his own hands. Naturally, a third option creeps up in the film’s final moments, and while it is somewhat predictable, it feels natural and is arguably the best ending for this bizarre but touching story.
Altogether, Maggie is a strong story with relatable characters and an emotional arc. It’s far from unforgettable, as it’s so small in scale and cinematographically inconsistent. Its color palette is way too washed and unappealing for my tastes, and the film’s budget constraints do show at times. That being said, writer John Scott 3 and director Henry Hobson complete the basics of cinematic storytelling so well that it’s hard to nitpick it. You care for the characters and how the story unfolds, and it lets its emotions and visuals speak for themselves.
…sort of like Schwarzenegger has done throughout his whole career. This one’s a winner, folks.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Maggie accomplishes the difficult task of conveying genuine drama despite few characters ever being in danger of violence, death, or immediate humiliation. It has a great premise and takes itself very seriously. Schwarzenegger and Breslin deliver as the father-daughter team who stick it out till the bitter end. I maintain that Schwarzenegger has displayed this level of dramatic and emotional depth for decades, but if it takes this role to prove that to the masses, so be it.
— However… Maggie’s color-scheme is at times beautiful but mostly plain and repetitive. The handheld camerawork needs work.
? No, Schwarzenegger did not take any salary for this movie, in case you were wondering.