Overall Grade: (C)
Most would assume the sum of Arnold Schwarzenegger added with a zombie pandemic would equal a non-stop action ride, instead, drama was the focus and without solid foundation the family dynamic was not enough to carry a high level of intrigue.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a desperate father named Wade who will go to great lengths to protect his daughter Maggie played by Abigail Breslin, who has been infected with a rampant disease that turns the subject into a zombie-like cannibal. Quarantine zones have been set up across the countryside and are swiftly filling up with mass amounts of infected. Ignoring the warnings and his own safety Wade will stay by his first born daughters side as the disease takes over her.
From the start you can tell the pace will be intentionally slow as the story tries to build a compelling family saga from the epidemic theme. There is little background to the cause of the outbreak and there is also little effort put into building the characters. At the beginning of the film the effects of the outbreaks have already taken its toll to the normal way of life and immediately the script focuses solely on one family and what they will do to protect their daughter from something they cannot stop.
The premise of a zombie themed film not focusing on the action and gore is a welcomed twist and at times this film managed to convey some great emotion. The look inside a common family and the grief of one of their own being infected did provide for some emotionally intriguing scenes but for a pace as slow as this one had, these handful of moments were not enough to make this a tense and enjoyable tale. There were many moments where the boredom crept in as you can sense the intention of the writing, but without a strong base for the characters the intended dramatic punch is not landed fully.
There was so little development it took until only a few minutes left for to realize that Maggie’s mother was not the same as the other two children (although I could have missed some hints earlier on). This accounted for the wife’s seeming lack of compassion at times and had this information been revealed earlier on it could have resulted in more impact from some of the subtleties along the way.
Despite the boring moments this slow paced drama delivered, there was some creativity put into the trendy zombie theme, that was nice to see in this story. Still the end result felt like a writer who was so focused on the family dynamic and the father/daughter bond, that the script felted rushed and missing the foundation. Something that could have easily been built in this slow paced, highly moody drama.
Schwarzenegger and Breslin were both excellent in this film, unlike his typical larger then life action roles Arnold kept a somber tone and managed to provide some of the drama this film was clearly aiming for. It felt like he enjoyed the role and welcomed the challenge of not leading with action and you can see he wanted to convey this performance with pride and show he does have some range. Breslin was also very enjoyable in her role and together with Arnold they easily pulled off the father/daughter roles in believable fashion. There were many times you could feel for her character as she copes with the outlook her life no longer has.
Regardless of their performances neither will ultimately get the credit they deserve due to a script that was missing much of the meat needed to fill out a tense, mind capturing thriller woven into a family drama. In the end “Maggie” was not a failure but did only manage to scratch the surface of its potential. The theme was intriguing, the angle the filmmakers wanted to go was ambitious, and while at times there was captivation in the scenes, the cardboard characters and lack of backdrop only result in a fraction of the intended dramatics.