Maggie is not your typical zombie movie. There are no major battles. No exploration of how the devastating epidemic swept the Earth. No group of untouchable protagonists who signal hope for the future.
The whole point of seeing (and enjoying) Maggie hinges on a desire to stray away from typical zombie tropes. It's not that these storytelling devices and familiar scenes are bad—in fact, they are consistently appealing. It's just that director Henry Hobson isn't too concerned with them. Instead, he turns his attention to the emotional ramifications of a zombie apocalypse, set to the tune of one daughter's fading swan song and one father's unwavering devotion.
This is post-post-apocalyptic America, and the encumbered citizens can't move on until they deal with the leftovers. These holdouts are the unlucky individuals who contracted the zombie virus before the country really got a hold on it. Unlike most other films, this is a slow descent into dehumanization, and the victims feel the pain right up until the final day.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as small town farmer named Wade, desperate to find his teenage daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) who has been missing for weeks. She turns up at a hospital, and she's been fatally bitten and infected by a zombie. He takes her back home, and the two must wait out her final days while Wade's little girl gradually but noticeably transforms into a instinct-driven monster.
While Maggie is often emotionally gripping, it sometimes suffers from its limited scope. I appreciated the focus on a family burden, but what it gains in drama, it loses in mystery. From almost the very beginning, we know the painful choice that these characters have to face, and that reality never changes. The entire movie is a laborious walk toward a grim truth, and it doesn't always feel like a worthwhile one.
Despite an unsteady script, both Schwarzenegger and Breslin breathe new life into their father-daughter dynamic, creating a convincingly gut-wrenching situation that I don't think has ever been captured on film before. It's incredibly refreshing to see this action hero show a vulnerable side, even when he's cast in the role of a protector. Some have called this "the movie where Arnold cries." A better version would be, "the movie where Arnold shows his overlooked range."
Maggie certainly offers something new, and for that, it's worth seeing. Just be prepared for a zombie movie with more heart than brains.