Monday, July 27, 2015

#1,806. Maggie (2015)

Directed By: Henry Hobson

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson

Line from this film: "Quarantine rules apply to everybody, Wade"

Trivia: Director Hobson created more than 200 pages of storyboards to guide his actors through the film

Maggie is not your typical Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Considered by many one of the all-time great action stars, Arnold here portrays a father who must deal with the fact that his daughter is dying. And guess what? He plays the part pretty darn well!

A virus, which affects crops and people alike, is sweeping across the country. Those whose fields are infected can burn the sickness away just by lighting a match, but for the unfortunate souls who’ve contracted the human form of the disease, there is no cure; in 8 weeks, they will transform into zombie-like creatures with a hunger for flesh. To prevent the virus from spreading, quarantine centers have been set up in all the major cities, and those who’ve been infected must be taken there before the disease has run its course. Farmer Wade Vogel (Schwarzenegger) knows that his oldest daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin), who contracted the virus after being bitten, has only a short time to live, yet he refuses to let go of her. His wife Caroline (Joely Richardson), who’s also Maggie’s step-mother (Maggie’s real mom died several years earlier), fears for the safety of their family (the couple’s two youngest children, played by siblings Aiden and Carsen Flowers, are sent to stay with their aunt). Still, Wade insists that Maggie live out her last days at home, and not in a quarantine center surrounded by strangers. As for Maggie, she realizes her time is just about up, and that the virus inside of her is getting stronger by the minute. What she doesn’t know, however, is whether or not she can control herself once the final stage of the illness sets in.

An infection film as opposed to a straight-up zombie movie (think 28 Days Later), Maggie has its share of intense sequences (one in particular, where Wade and Maggie stop at a roadside gas station, features what is arguably the film’s most frightening moment). But unlike most movies of this ilk, there aren't thousands of diseased roaming the countryside; government and law enforcement officials, with the help of the quarantine centers, have managed to keep the virus in check. Along with minimizing the number of infected, this also sets the stage for the human drama that forms the heart of this film. As Maggie’s illness progresses, the local authorities, including the sheriff (Douglas M. Griffin), urge Wade to turn her over. But Wade is willing to risk everything to ensure that Maggie stays put, threatening anyone who so much as suggests that she be taken to a quarantine center. As for Maggie, she does what she can to lead as normal a life as possible: sitting down to dinner with Wade and Caroline, going for walks in the woods, and spending time with her best friend Allie (Raeden Greer). Yet the reality of her situation is never far from her mind, and as badly as Wade wants to keep her close by, Maggie worries about what will happen when the disease finally takes control of her. Abigail Breslin does a fantastic job as the title character, perfectly conveying the fear and anger of a young girl who knows she’s reached the end of her life, and Schwarzenegger matches her every step of the way as a man who simply cannot let go.

Since his return to the big screen (his stint as the Governor of California kept him away for a number of years), Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in a handful of action-oriented films, including every installment of the Expendables series, as well as 2013’s The Last Stand (a movie I enjoyed). Yet as fun as it is to watch Arnie kick ass, he was so good in Maggie that I hope he continues to challenge himself with a few more serious-minded roles. Clearly, he has a knack for them.

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