When I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger was taking on a dramatic role, I thought that the man had finally gone off the deep end. I mean, how can a man who is famous for his action roles possibly make this work? The reviews I saw when it came out were not nice. But, finally, I decided to sit down and actually see this film for myself. And, I want to tell you all about something that I hate in movies – when one element works REALLY well, and the other element hopelessly sucks. This is important, because when I say that I like this movie, it comes with a caveat. A major caveat.
The plot goes that Arnold is a man who is looking for his daughter (played by Abigail Breslin). She ran away, and he wants to find her. And he does. She’s in a hospital, after being attacked by a person who is infected with this film’s version of the zombie virus. That’s right, we have a zombie movie. But unlike other films, this one keeps the particulars about this pretty vague. It hints that this infection might have originally started with crops. Hence why it became so widespread. Very The Last of Us. Keep that comparison in mind. It’s useful. The daughter is infected, and it is only a matter of time until she turns. Now we get to see how far Arnold will go to keep his child safe.
I know, another zombie movie. Trust me, I get if you are rolling your eyes. I’m right there with you in saying that it’s overdone. But at least this time, the zombies aren’t the focus. In fact, the film goes out of its way to make it so that they don’t have to focus on the undead aspect. The story is of Maggie and her slow degradation from human to undead. This is a human story, with the infection just being a catalyst to tell it. The focus is on the human element. And let me tell you, that’s where this film is at its best.
Had I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be doing well in a dramatic role, I’d have thought you were crazy. This man really is one of the greatest success stories in history. He comes to the US to become a bodybuilder. He decides one day – I’m going to become an actor. It sounds crazy, what with that insane heavy accent and the gap in his teeth. But nope! He does it. Then he decides – I’m going to marry a Kennedy. It sounds crazy, since they are pretty much American royalty. But he does it. The he decides – I’m going to become the governor of California. It sounds crazy, since he isn’t an American-born citizen and how much political experience does he have? But he does it. Now, in his twilight years, he has decided that he is going to do dramatic roles. It sounds crazy, since how can you take a man with that accent seriously? But wouldn’t you know it, he’s fucking done it. Unreal. What can’t this guy do? Oh, right, repair a vehicle. The scene with him working on the truck starts out laughably bad, since it’s clear he has NO idea what he’s doing.
Abigail Breslin also does very well with the role. With how little dialogue there is, she sells the fact that she is facing her mortality, and it’s coming soon. She’s deteriorating quickly, and the fact is that she’s going to become a monster very soon, if she doesn’t do something. The scenes with her are really good. Something about how this film looks at the progression of the disease makes her character’s growth pretty heartbreaking to watch.
Something worth mentioning is that this film handles the tense scenes really well. There were some moments that I was biting on my hand, it was so intense. This film doesn’t shy away from the scary shit, and it’s better for it.
Which brings me to the bad part – the cinematography. This film is not shot well. Every single shot is handheld. But not the good kind. Not like Stephen Spielberg. This is like someone who can’t hold the camera still. And during the times when there is fast pace, it becomes so bad that it’s on the level of shaky-cam. Plus, it’s so narrow. Watching this movie reminds me of The Evil Within, and how that game could have been a lot better by widening the lens a little. Or by using a tripod. Or by stepping back a pace or two. The cinematography is so bad that it is seriously detracting. I can’t stand it sometimes.
Also, remember what I said about how much it’s like The Last of Us, well it REALLY is. Arnold technically isn’t her father. He made a promise that he would look after her. The girl is bitten in the arm. There are moral dilemmas about the nature of infection. I won’t call this a rip-off, because it doesn’t play out as well as that, but the inspiration for this film is pretty clear.
As far as zombie movies go, this is probably one of the best that’s ever been made. It’s a human story, and a tragic one at that. If you’re looking for a happy movie, you won’t find it here. But if you want a human story that will bum you out and shows that the Governator is a damn good dramatic actor, you will find something to like. Here’s hoping he can land a role that is shot better than this for his next foray into drama.
7 out of 10