17th Oct2015

‘Survivor’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mila Jovovich, Dylan McDermott, Angela Basset, James D’Arcy, Robert Forster, Frances De La Tour | Written by Philip Shelby | Directed by James McTeigue


Often times in Hollywood it seems like filmmakers are either working from the same script, or are unable to see past the success of a previous film. Which is why film when a film like Olympus Has Fallen (or the very similar, and frankly better, White House Down) finds a modicum of success and popularity – enough to spawn a sequel in fact – it can have such a heavy influence on other action movies. Which leads us to Survivor.

The front of the UK DVD and Blu-ray are emblazoned with the slogan “From the makers of Olymps Has Fallen” and with good reason. This UK-set film follows the same story formula as the Gerard Butler-starrer, with and underdog government employee Kate Abbott (Mila Jovovich) pitted against criminals that seems to be one step ahead of her and the government agency she works for. Sound familiar? It’s so familiar in fact, that  Survivor could have been called London Has Fallen without anyone so much as betting an eyelid. Well it could if that movie didn’t actually already exist!

Survivor sees Jovovich’s character – an American State Department official posted to the US embassy in London – is charged with stopping terrorists from getting into the U.S. which puts her directly in the line of fire: targeted for death, framed for crimes she didn’t commit, discredited and on the run. Working outside her protocols she must find a way to clear her name and stop a large-scale terrorist attack set for New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square…

Essentially a cat and mouse thriller, Survivor follows a very familiar story which recalls Cold War thrillers of old (and even the Bourne franchise), whilst focussing on more of a modern-day example of terrorism – even going as far as to reference 9/11 and America’s “war on terror” in the films closing title screen – all the while fulfilling every cliche and stereotype it possibly can, making this very much a by-the-numbers affair that is as predictable as they come. But then what would you expect from a film whose very existence seems to be to promote just how well US agencies are at dealing with terrorism – even to the detriment of our own. In fact the film goes even further, having a sly dig at the UK’s current political climate too, with a nod to the austerity policies of the Conservatives costing the country it’s own safety!

Yet for a film whose plot is so by-the-numbers, Survivor still manages one great surprise… Pierce Brosnan. Usually the suave, sophisticated hero, Brosnan is a revelation as the films quiet, but ruthless, assassin. His smooth demeanour gives his villainous role and creepy yet effective edge that makes his character seemingly have more depth than it would seem given the shallow nature of the rest of the films script. Menawhile Jovovich’s character is a strange dichotomy – the first time we see her she’s riding a motorbike and is described as one the State Departments best agents. Then why, when all hell breaks loose, does she suddenly turn into a terrified wimp? Fair enough she has some resourcefulness but – right until the films final scenes – she often acts ike she needs saving, rather than being the person who, ultimately, saves everyone!

Survivor is not going to set the world alight – its far too cliched for that – but as a solid action thriller it does exactly what it sets out to do and it does it better than a lot of the action movie fodder cramming the supermarket shelves these days! The filmis out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Lions Gate Home Entertainment



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