Friday, January 08, 2016

Terminal Illness Via Zombie

That's basically what Maggie seems to be. A father (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a daughter who gets bitten during a mysterious plague that turns people gradually into zombies. There isn't a cure, but it's also going to be awhile before she's a threat to anyone, so he's allowed to bring Maggie (Abigail Breslin) home. Caroline, who is Maggie's stepmother, sends hers Wade's two kids to stay with their aunt, but sticks around as long as she can.

But everyone knows how it's going to end up, and people keep nudging Wade, advising or reminding him that at some point, she's going to have to go into quarantine (which is basically throwing all sorts of infected people in a locked room and waiting for them to die/eat each other. Unless Wade would like to offer her a swifter end himself. And Wade refuses. Just keeps kicking that can down the road, even though he knows the risk he's taking.

It was interesting, if not exactly a cheerful film. It doesn't seem like it's going to become a full-on apocalypse, the government's still hanging together, but that doesn't mean there aren't still people suffering and dying from it. It's fairly quiet, and the camera hangs really close to people's faces, or just over the shoulder most of the time. Which is meant to make us feel like we're really in the middle of it, but mostly made me feel like an interloper. That this was a deeply personal thing for this family, and I'm hanging around invisibly, spying on them.

But I liked how they built it up. The way Maggie's illness would wax and wane, the tension that would rise as it would seem like this time her mind was gone, or things were going to escalate between Wade and the sheriff's deputy, and then pull back. Maybe they know we expect Arnold to start fending off the law with firearms at some point, and so they're messing with us. It's a solid performance from him. He's always had a knack for a certain style of comedy, but there's not much of that here. He's just a dad who can't bear to lose his daughter, and it paralyzes him. He can't do anything to save her, and he can't imagine not saving her, so he's stuck. Breslin plays her role well. She struggles to deal with what's happened to her, tries to cut herself off from her friends, to protect them most likely. But once she sees them, she's glad to be around them, to reconnect with that part of her life.

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