Arnold Schwarzenegger (2014's "Sabotage
") has been receiving a number of warm notices for his performance in "Maggie," a grim father-daughter story that marks, believe it or not, one of the first non-action-oriented dramatic roles of his career. He is competent in the part, but not outstanding; the film, directed by Henry Hobson and written by John Scott 3 (both first-timers), doesn't provide the breadth of material to allow him to build a fully realized three-dimensional character. Better, if still restricted by a script that is far too stodgy and restrained, is Abigail Breslin (2013's "August: Osage County
") as the eponymous Maggie, a teenage girl facing a terrifying fate. The picture hinges on their relationship as well as the reality of the unthinkable situation they face, but both aspects are only cursorily explored.
It has been several months since the start of the so-called necroambulist virus. The resulting outbreak, transforming the infected into cannibalistic zombies in just six to eight weeks' time, has turned the world upside down. With no known cure in sight, society has struggled to move forward even as this rotten illness has affected the lives of all. Quarantine areas have been set up for those in the final stages of what has been coined "the turn," but some medical professionals know all too well that it might be easier and less painful if families deal with their infected loved ones themselves. It is this horrific predicament that Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) must come to terms with when his daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin), is bitten by one of the undead and infected by the necroambulist strain. Wade brings Maggie home, the both of themand Maggie's stepmother, Caroline (Joely Richardson)well aware of the dwindling time she has left. As her body deteriorates and her appetite for food is replaced with a hunger for humans, Wade must decide how to handle what he knows must be done.
Save for a brief NPR report heard in the opening scene, "Maggie" is an almost stubbornly self-contained fable where little is found out about what is happening beyond the bubble of its Middle-American, rolling-plains locale. Sometimes a limited scope like this can be useful in order to concentrate on characters over a bigger marketable concept, but said characters and their interactions have to be interesting enough to withhold a feature-length story. Abigail Breslin brings a quiet sadness to Maggie, but little is learned about her or what her feelings are over the knowledge that her life is about to come to an end. Did she have hopes or dreams before the accident? What are her thoughts on death, and the experience of going through physical and biological changes that are horrifically out of her hands? Likewise, what is going through Wade's mind as he watches his first-born daughter die a little each day? Who was he before the outbreak, and how did that change when everything went to hell? Maggie and Wadeand the filmnever open up enough to tackle these provocative topics. Sincere and mournful, but also languid, "Maggie" dodges the tough questions of its unsettling premise and misses the opportunity to dig deeper.