Alan Laidlaw reviews Maggie at Edinburgh International Film Festival – a zombie-drama starring Arnold Schwarzenegger that’s more of a snore-fest than a gore-fest
There’s a good chance you’ll hear someone say that Arnold Schwarzenegger gives a great performance in Maggie, a film which sees him tackle a role far removed from his usual flex-and-quote machismo routine. But as much as one can admire Arnie – who probably doesn’t need to take many risks at this stage in his career – for trying out something new, it doesn’t excuse the fact that he plays the part with all the emotional resonance of a fully dehumanised zombie – something which, coincidentally, there’s a distinct lack of in this undead-drama that spends more time eroding patience than it does any actual flesh.
Maggie is set in the midst of a zombie-apocalypse. But – instead of showing a world that has descended into chaos where malls are barricaded, people drive recklessly to get out of infected areas and whole cities are consumed in smoke and fire – there’s relative control over the situation. People who are infected are given their chance to live out the remainder of their human existence under the watch of their families before being taken into quarantine when the time comes.
The film concentrates on the rocky relationship between Maggie (Abigail Breslin) an infected teenager and her devoted father (Schwarzenegger), as they come to terms with the realities and fatalism of their situation.
There’s very little in the way of action in Maggie; in fact that’s almost certainly the point. Director Henry Hobson has clear intentions to subvert the zombie genre – swapping terror and gore for emotion and psychology. It’s an idea that, in theory, seems every bit as revolutionary to the genre as when George Romero first introduced us to the emo-zombie Bub.
Unfortunately, it proves to be an idea better served on paper than celluloid, as there’s no emotional core to a film that pins all of its hopes on delivering two powerhouse central performances which come up short in almost every level – both Breslin and Arnie failing to kick this horrific snoozer into life.
Beyond the initial concept, Hobson has plenty of good ideas in store for Maggie but fails to do justice to any of them – neglecting to see most through to their most impactful ends. There’s stunted allegory, a half-realised apocalyptic wasteland and a conclusion that feels entirely compromised.
Having an iconic action figure hulking over what should be an emotionally nuanced drama is a mis-step, but making a horror that neglects to install in itself the vaguest semblance of fear or terror is call for a code red quarantine.
Maggie is released in UK cinemas on July 24