A State Department employee newly posted to the American embassy in London is charged with stopping terrorists from getting into the U.S. That puts her right in the line of fire and she is targeted for death and framed for crimes. Discredited, she is forced to go on the run while she tries to clear her name and stop a large-scale terrorist attack set on New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
Synopsis (Warning: May contain spoilers, duh!)
The Gist of It: After being mysteriously framed for a terrorist bombing, a Foreign Service Officer must evade government capture and death by a ruthless assassin in order to stop the real perpetrators’ master-and much deadlier-plan.
Kate Abbott (Mila Jovovich) is an officer with the US embassy in London and is sent to identify possible security breaches. While on duty, Kate starts to ask a few too many questions to a man applying for an American visa who she suspects to be (and actually is) a bio-terrorist; before letting him through customs. She soon notices a pattern and uncovers a chemical conglomerate that is entwined with staging a terror attack.
This sets him and his associates into freak-out mode, and they hire an elite hit man known as The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan) to take her out. From there, Kate becomes a most-wanted fugitive due to a series of misunderstandings and explosions and goes on the lam to evade capture from both her former colleagues and government. While she is being hunted, she must discover who the real terrorists are while staying one step ahead of a hit man (Pierce Brosnan) hired to kill her.
In spite of an A-grade cast, a solid $20 million budget, and it being directed by James McTeigue (‘V For Vendetta’ & ‘Ninja Assassin’- though the latter was dumb, it was at least energetic), ‘Survivor’ is nothing more than a B-grade straight-to-DVD thriller (If you can call it that). If more effort had been injected into it, in terms of better writing and more inventive staging, this could have easily been a summer blockbuster; no questions asked.
While the premise is recycled, with it being a cross between a discount ‘Salt’ and a low-budget ‘The Fugitive’, Mila Jovovich makes for an impressively down-to-earth heroine; as opposed to her zombie-slaying, ass-kicking, sword-wielding role in the coveted ‘Resident Evil’ franchise. Pairing her up with Pierce Brosnan, who stars as a believable and ruthless baddie, should have made for a solid cat-and-mouse thriller; but it’s shamefully disappointing.
‘Survivor’ also hits all the genre clichés; Jovovich is the low-key professional trying to do her job but stymied by her boss (Robert Forster) in a way that reveals an eventual twist far too early. There are lots of chases where Jovovich has to avoid the authorities Jason Bourne-style, but McTeigue either doesn’t have the resources or the inspiration to stage any really good set-pieces; with all the chases and quick fights being nothing more than you would expect to see on a network television show any night of the week.
One should probably never let logic get in the way of a chase thriller, but the plot here is hard to swallow, even by genre standards. The bad guy’s plan, where they try to do away with Jovovich by blowing her up in a restaurant to make it seem like she died in a terrorist attack, makes no sense whatsoever. As soon as Brosnan’s baddie realizes she’s survived the attempt on her life, he proceeds to draw his silenced weapon and shoot her in broad daylight; which should certainly prove to authorities that Jovovich is innocent- especially in a heavily CCTV’d city like London. It seems as though the bad guy’s idea of framing her happens accidentally, with her colleagues having nothing beyond the barest circumstantial evidence to prove she’s a terrorist.
Overall, ‘Survivor’ is a below-average film. It looks passable and some performances are fine, but it suffers from a poorly crafted story structure and no definitive stance on what it wants to be: too slow to be a thriller, but not interesting enough to be suspenseful. Ultimately, the film’s downfall is lengthy. Even at 90 minutes, it’s bloated with filler. Though if you enjoy watching someone ride their motorcycle, park it, get off, walk up to the door, open it, walk through several hallways and rooms before arriving at the room in which the scene is set, then you’ll have fun with ‘Survivor’.
It’s crazy that such a half-assed concept was able to attract talent like this, with not only Jovovich and Brosnan as the leads, but also a capable supporting cast including the under-used, as always, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett and James D’Arcy. Jovovich in particular seems to be really trying here, even though she’s played action heroines many times before, she’s admirably low-key, trying to give off the impression that’s she’s in over her head and using her smarts rather than brawn to save the day; she deserves much better than this. For his part, Brosnan at least seems to be having fun playing a full-fledged baddie. He actually looks pretty menacing with his salt and pepper hair and constant menacing growl plastered on his tired face. In his late-fifties, Brosnan still seems extremely capable in the action scenes; like Jovovich, he deserves better material than this.
In the end, ‘Survivor’ was probably never meant for the big-screen and should cash-in and cash-out fairly well on both Video-On-Demand (VOD) and DVD; both in the States and abroad based on the name value of the stars involved. Still, it’s sad to see Jovovich and Brosnan in something so low-rent, as both have a lot more to offer. Had the writing been a little sharper and the staging a bit more energetic, ‘Survivor’ could have been a solid film rather than the immediately disposable filler that it ultimately is.
Ultimately, it’s slow pacing, phoned-in acting, and an uninspired script makes ‘Survivor’ relentlessly dumb, filled with familiar plotting, and laughable story contrivances.
Favourite Line: “Since 9/11 American law enforcement has stopped 53 terrorist acts in New York City alone”.
Release Date: 28th May, 2015