Arnild Schwarzenegger has taken a break from the shlock Action movies, and has taken on a serious drama.And I must admit that I was sceptical at his lead role in this. But somehow, he pulls it off and gives a reasonably good performance.
The story takes place in a world on the brink of complete collapse, as the crops have been hit by a virus making them useless, and this has transmitted to humans. Thousands are being quarantined facing terrible conditions and a low chance of survival. Wade (Arnold) manages to rescue his daughter Maggie Abigail Breslin) from one such centre, and brings her home despite the fact that she herself has been infected. The options are limited for her, but Wade simply wants his daughter near him during her final days.
It is pretty straight-forward in terms of other outbreak / post apocalyptic film, although this takes a much more personal view upon the matter at hand. Zooming in on the struggles of one family instead of their struggle amongst the world falling to pieces, makes it a far more personal tale. Maggie acts in essence much like any teenager of her age, and Wade is an old father having difficulty in facing some very hard decisions. It is almost like the worries of the rest of the world fall out of focus, since what we spend the majority of time with is their home and surrounding land.
It may feel odd when watching this and you think “This looks like an Indie film given a real punch up”. And you’d be kind of right, since this was a Blacklist script, and so gathered a lot of attention. Hence, why it appears here all polished and with a big name on the poster. But I must say, it is a pretty good script, and one that generates a very well built, and focussed world for it to take place in. At heart it is a sorrowful Drama, one that is walking towards an end you know will come, but it is the journey there that is what matters more. I wonder if it is highlighting the plights of cancer – the movie doesn’t specifically have any agendas that it is pushing, but you can easily relate the two.
Performance-wise, Schwarzenegger is very composed and for someone so used to being an Action star, fits in well here. Sure, the voice gives it away every time he speaks, but he translates across the internal battle of choices that the character is facing in a way that I wasn’t expecting him to achieve. It isn’t going to win an Oscar, but will be a role that will get a gold star on his resume. He looks intimidating and string, but at heart just wants what can help his daughter. And as for Maggie, Abigail Breslin is the beating heart of the movie. She gets you invested in the story, in her plight, in the entanglement of emotions that is on the screen. Again it won’t set Hollywood on fire, but it is just a damm good performance. There are scenes where even though I wasn’t shedding tears, I was very close to it. And it was her acting that sold me on the story.
There were a few things that diluted the waters for me though. Even though Wade is a very significant character, there are scenes where he is oddly missing from. Times where Maggie walks off on her own and it seems baffling as to why her father wouldn’t notice. The struggle Maggie’s mother (Joely Richardson) is going through feels like too minor an element before it becomes a big moment. To put it another way, the script just doesn’t have enough for her in order to make her decision significant. And lastly, it is just a tad too long for what is, when you look closely, quite a simple story and screenplay.
I can see why this was Blacklisted, and I am happy that it was taken on and put into production. “Maggie” has some emotional beats that will capture you, and I know for sure that especially for parents, this will be a heart-wrenching tale. it is captured on camera in a very simple and beautiful way, minimal set dressing and instead using some gorgeous lighting to set the scene off. Arnie proves that he can do serious drama and be part in a serious emotional arc. I mean, so much of what we have here is very good.
But it needed just that little bit more to push it over the line for me. Instead of being memorable and truly smashing the feels, it will be a movie that over time will be forgotten in place of one which does the same to better effect. I’m not saying this is bad – hell, it’s much better than I was expecting it to be, but for films that emotionally want to stay with you forever…. just “good” isn’t quite enough. Check it out and see for yourself what you make of it
Thanks for reading!