'Survivor': Film Review

Survivor Still - H 2015
Nick Wall

Survivor Still - H 2015

A fine cast is wasted in this formulaic, B-movie exercise

An American security expert framed for a mass killing attempts to prevent a terrorist plot in James McTeigue's thriller.

The ghosts of far better movies haunt this by-the-numbers thriller featuring enough recognizable names to make it attractive on VOD listings. The credits alone inspire nostalgia: from producer Irwin Winkler (Rocky, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and innumerable other classics) to director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) to the cast that includes Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster. Unfortunately, despite the plethora of talent involved, Survivor turns out to be as bland as its title.

The plot revolves around Kate Abbott (Jovovich), an American security expert newly transferred to the U.S. embassy in London, whose efforts to diligently screen prospective travelers to America are strangely undermined by her superior (Forster) who seems more concerned about people missing their flights. In particular, Kate's suspicion is aroused by a Romanian scientist (Roger Rees) specializing in gases who claims to be going to the States for a medical conference.

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But of course he has far more nefarious things in mind, as becomes clear from his association with a deadly assassin, the Jackal — excuse me, the "Watchmaker" (a perpetually glowering Brosnan) — who decides that he needs to take Kate out.

Despite his formidable reputation, the Watchmaker manages to screw up his attempt to eradicate Kate via a bomb in the restaurant in which she's dining with friends. But his plan succeeds to the extent that she becomes the unlikely suspect in the mass killing, hunted by an Inspector Javert-like London police inspector (James D'Arcy) as well as most of her former colleagues who are ordered by the U.S. ambassador (Bassett), "If you get her in your sights, do not hesitate."

So Kate, displaying formidable skills at evading her pursuers, goes on the lam with the help of the few co-workers (Dylan McDermott, Frances de la Tour) who believe she's innocent, while desperately attempting to prevent the terrorists from perpetrating a 9/11-style attack in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Stuffed with endless chase scenes which never seem to generate any actual suspense, the film at least benefits from the presence of its charismatic leads. Jovovich, who's proved her action movie bona fides in the Resident Evil franchise, is an appealingly gutsy heroine, and Brosnan, playing a dark version of James Bond, effortlessly displays cool menace. It's sad, though, to see such reliable veterans as Forster and Bassett reduced to their stock roles.

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The film also shamelessly exploits recent history, from its horrific prologue set in Afghanistan to the frequent references to 9/11 to the end credits tribute to American security forces battling terrorism. Considering that Survivor is lazily executed, cheap-looking B-movie shlock, it all feels terribly unearned.

Production: Winkler Films, Millennium Films, Survivor Productions
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, James D'Arcy, Roger Rees
Director: James McTeigue
Screenwriter: Philip Shelby
Producers: Irwin Winkler, Charles Winkler, Matthew O'Toole, Les Weldon
Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Jason Bloom
Director of photography: Danny Ruhlmann
Production designer: Max Gottlieb
Editor: Kate Baird
Costume designer: Stephanie Collie
Composer: Ilan Eshkeri
Casting: Elaine Grainger

Rated PG-13, 96 min.