I’m about to do something that I have never done before and that is review a film that has yet to be released in the UK that is due for a cinema release. Having friends in various film companies, I occasionally get DVDs of films that haven’t come out yet and I get to enjoy them long before most people do. For example, I first saw The Theory of Everything in October 2014, a few months before it was released. I chose not to review that film (although I wish I had as it was exceptional), but I’ve gone with this because at the moment it isn’t well known in the UK, that despite it’s prolific main star.
I’m not going to lie, I’m not a fan of Schwarzenegger. It’s very rare that I have watched a film of his and been impressed with his performance. The only exceptions that I can think of are as the Terminator in, well I’m sure you can guess which franchise that is. The reason for this is because due to his accent, Schwarzenegger does sound a bit robotic in terms of his speech and delivery of lines, so it felt like a good match.
I’m going into this film without really knowing a lot about the plot as I tend to find that’s working for me a lot recently. I didn’t even watch the trailer, which is very unusual for me, although I am guessing from the poster that this is something to do with zombies, I just hope that is isn’t filled with clichés.
I am also aware that this is considerably higher profile than films I normally review. Just to put people’s minds at ease, I won’t be switching to mainstream films permanently, although as I have previously mentioned, if I think that it’s worth including then I will, but it won’t be often.
Also, just to make it easier, I am going to refer to him throughout the review as Arnie because, quite frankly, Schwarzenegger is too complicated and long to write on a regular basis.
Wade (Arnie) finally finds her daughter, Maggie (Breslin) after several weeks of looking. He quickly realises that she has been bitten by someone who was infected with a deadly virus and he is advised to get her quarantined as soon as possible. He decides to ignore the advice and takes her home.
Whilst trying to fend off the infected that are trying to get into their house every now and then, Maggie’s condition continues to degrade and when an accident on a swing ends up in her index finger being severed. The infection is spreading and the only thing keeping her going is her relationship with Wade and her friends, all of whom are also infected.
How long can she last before she succumbs her hunger for flesh?
So, is it worth the watch when it’s released at the cinema?
Well, it’s hard to say as after watching it, it doesn’t seem like a cinema type film. It’s almost one that would be best if it went straight to DVD. In many ways I liken it to similar film by the name of Carriers, staring Chris Pine. Carriers is a similar film in many ways that was also release at the cinema, but didn’t really feel like it should have been. Now, this might be because I am watching this at home rather than at a cinema but it just doesn’t feel like something that belongs in a cinema.
The film starts off exceptionally slow and not a lot is really happening. It takes a long time (relatively) to get past the logos that normally come at the beginning of a film. I can’t really put this in a way that will some it up better than saying it in a way that one of my favourite Youtube channels would say. So with that, as Cinema Sins would say, “68 seconds of logos” *ding*. Now, I know 68 seconds isn’t a long time but you’re just sat there waiting for them to end so you can actually watch the film, and it just takes a long, long time.
Even after that, it takes a while to get into the film and at the time of writing, I am nearly 20 minutes into the film and other than Wade taking Maggie home after she has gotten infected. Not a lot has happened.
Joely Richardson and Arnie share precisely no chemistry whatsoever. Richardson is one of the few actresses I actually find to be talented and she has great flexibility in terms of the roles she is capable of playing, but there is just nothing there with Arnie. The two seem like strangers that have been put together, and given that they’re supposed to be man and wife, that’s never a good thing.
Arnie isn’t given many lines and that works quite well for the most part. Whilst I don’t think he’s a great actor, Arnie is great at looking ponderously into the middle distance and full of regret. The character spends most of his time in the movie doing pretty much exactly that. I think the film found the best way to use Arnie in his later years (the nice way of putting it) and there are long spells where he is not in the film at all.
Abigail Breslin is her predictable self. Breslin, much like Dakota Fanning, has almost struck me as one of those child stars that has grown up believing all of the hype around them, that despite their talent being very limited. She is a bit bland as Maggie and I find it hard to really care about or feel sorry for a character that rarely shows and semblance of giving a shit about her situation. She gets infected in the very first scene (actual infection isn’t seen) and after that, for the most part, it doesn’t seem to impact her life at all, and I think this is down to Breslin’s uninspiring and unemotional portrayal.
It would seriously help Breslin if she showed emotion every now and then. Just before the hour mark one of her friends is telling her a sad story about a family member being killed and all Breslin can manage is a “do I give a fuck?” look on her face.
So onto the positives and the first is something that always bugs me in zombie style/post-apocalyptic films, everyone is always perfectly clean. For example, in the Resident Evil franchise, the character of Alice always finds time in between fighting the zombie hoards to change her hair style and colour on a regular basis. In all five of the films released to date, her hair is different in a major way to the previous entry.
Maggie doesn’t follow that trend though as everyone looks dirty and sweaty. Wade looks like he hasn’t had a shower in a long time and it reflects that in a post-apocalyptic world, there are far more important things that making yourself look presentable.
There were several parts of the plot and one of the highlights for me was in the middle of the film when Maggie goes for a check up. The doctor gives her the typical bedside manner and gives her her chances, before admitting to Wade that he has lied and that she doesn’t have much time left at all. It makes you wonder to what extent the medical professional lying has actually impacted the infection spreading.
The colour palette that is used is dull and somewhat lifeless, and this combined with the atmosphere of the film puts you into a truly bleak world and gives you a distinctive lack of hope for the characters. There are no bright colours, not even with the clothes, and it feels like a world that is dying. Infact, the only real colour use is yellow, as everything else feels almost grey.
Acoustically the film is perfect and the subtle soundtrack is very effectively. It makes you feel everything that you’re supposed to feel in that moment and this is unlike a lot of other films that I have watched in any genre. There are plenty of scenes, such as one where Wade is walking through a field near the beginning of the film and the score makes it seem impossible to hope for a brighter future, which brings you truly into the world of the characters. That is exactly what a score is supposed to do.
Whilst Maggie struggles to really deserve more than a straight to DVD release, it’s not an awful effort in terms of direction and artistic merit. It certainly looks the part and the few sets that are used are used very well. However, the plot does not work and the film falls rather flat. Breslin portrays her character poorly, although the character isn’t exactly great to begin with and it felt almost like 90 minutes that I had wasted.
I think the best word to describe the film is disappointing. It’s very flat and never really feels like it’s getting going. It takes more than a good atmosphere and an appropriate look to make a film good, and unfortunately this has all of the style, but virtually no substance behind it.
I would recommend that when this does come out at the cinema, you avoid it as it’s one of the least exciting and engaging zombie style films in recent years.