Survivor (2015)

Survivor (2015)
  • Time: 96 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller
  • Director: James McTeigue
  • Cast: Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster, Angela Bassett


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 for New Year’s Eve in Times Square.


  • Solid but indistinguishable may be the best way to describe Survivor, a middle-of-the-road thriller that has its moments of excitement but is an assured march to incredulity.

    Milla Jovovich stars as Kate Abbott, a well-regarded security expert brought in to help the American Embassy in London. Recent events have made the Embassy ever more vigilant of suspected terrorists obtaining valid visas into the country. On the lookout for those with scientific expertise or chemical and gas specialists, Kate becomes suspicious of Emil Balan (Roger Rees), a Romanian doctor purporting to visit the U.S. for a medical conference. Bill Talbot (Robert Forster), the leader of the visa team, believes Kate is too strict and worries that her thoroughness will result in backlogs and customer complaints.

    It is clear from the get-go that Kate’s suspicions are well-founded – there wouldn’t be a movie if they weren’t – when British Inspector Anderson (James D’Arcy) pressures the U.S. Ambassador (Angela Bassett) to shut down Kate’s inquiries, citing improper circumvention of the required channels. Meanwhile, the good doctor Balan’s concerns about Kate brings about the involvement of The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan), an internationally known assassin who has managed to elide capture by undergoing numerous reconstructive surgeries. His initial attempt to kill her in a restaurant bombing results in Kate’s unlikely survival and marks her as a most wanted woman.

    At this point, the movie kicks into high gear as The Watchmaker attempts to finish what he has started, Anderson shadows Kate’s colleague Sam (Dylan McDermott), the only person who believes her innocent, in the hopes of arresting her, and Kate does her utmost to unravel a terrorist conspiracy even as her team are trying to wash their hands clean of her. “If you get her in your sights, do not hesitate,” the U.S. Ambassador orders, eager to get rid of this political and public liability.

    Director James McTeigue makes good use of the London locations – the chase through St. Pancras Station into the bowels of the underground is gripping – but seems to lose interest as the movie wears on. A number of fine actors waste their talents, though the underrated Jovovich must be commended for somehow making Kate’s plight believable and worth investing in.

    The film takes place in a lot of darkness – Kate works with the lights off, the foot chase through the tunnels, the finale on a New York rooftop – but there is something in McTeigue’s inconsistent direction that suggests budgetary constraints rather than aesthetic choices.

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  • I hate the title of this movie. Thankfully, I liked almost everything else. Survivor (my latest review) sounds so general, so generic, so darn commonplace. If you wanted to google it, you’d have to add the release date. Otherwise, you’d get the hit TV show from the early 2000’s or the wiki page for one of America’s cheesiest rock bands.

    Anyway, as I viewed this European spy thriller (with almost no Europeans in it), the first words that entered my mind were “Pierce Brosnan strikes again”. He played a sort of bad guy in The November Man and now he plays a real loathsome SOB here. His character is called “The Watchmaker”, a hitman who gives human decency the middle finger while killing at will. You think your his confidant until you perish via a knife to any upper extremity (the name is Nash, Mr. Nash). I hate to say it but it’s fun watching Brosnan play the heavy. He’s just one of the many delights in Survivor, a certain something that’s a little bit The Fugitive, a lot like 2013’s Paranoia (with more pizazz), and just plain Bourne again.

    Featuring plenty of sophisticated bombs exploding and produced by Irwin Winkler (financier of other cyber fare like The Net), this is 96 minutes chronicling Foreign Service assistant, Kate Abbot (played by Milla Jovovich). She works out of London and aids in analyzing visa apps for potential terrorist subjects. When one of her crooked superiors (Robert Forster as Bill Talbot) finds out that Abbot might have uncovered something, well he orders her and all her co-workers to be killed. Spunky Kate initially escapes a fainted demise, then gets framed for accidental murder, and finally finds the whole free world trying to hunt her down. Jovovich with eyes a glaring, is solid here and is supported by a strong cast of badasses (Dylan McDermott), old friends (it’s good to see Roger Rees in a movie again), and Oscar darlings (past nominee Angela Bassett). Oh and I almost forgot, try to look away from an earlier sequence in the film involving United States hostages knelt down while being lit on fire. This is light years ahead of what Richard Pryor went through (freebasing cocaine and 151-proof rum anyone?).

    Comedic misadventures and viable acting aside, Survivor is a slow burner of a thriller that picks up hurled momentum throughout. The only scene in it that feels rushed, is the opening one (a bullet-laden tryst between U.S. allies and enemy war soldiers in Afghanistan). Granted, this is a rare vehicle that despite harboring some by the numbers candor and predictable plot elements, still intrigues you, still exudes you, and makes you lightheaded with dense, speedy editing. Director Lewis McTeigue strips everything down from his slower-paced V for Vendetta to fashion know-how that is slick without being too slick and techy without being too techy. He also gives you plenty of gadgetry/gimmickry without hastily sledgehammering the notion of both.

    All in all, with a cliffhanger climax involving the Times Square Ball on New Year’s Eve and a film score lifted from everything Roger Donaldson (if you’ve seen The Recruit you’ll know what I’m talking about), Survivor might be the biggest surprise of pedestrian-rattled 2015. As a late night rental, you can most definitely “survive” it.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • Now if you’ve ever wondered what it would have been like if James Bond went rogue, then this would be the closest thing to it.
    The premise is set up pretty well, although the pace needs a while to get momentum. It also speeds up in the second act hectically, so audience might find the timeline jarring. Nevertheless, as a thriller the movie is presentably gripping, moving the plot with mostly fast pace. The cast gives amicable performances with major names delivering what’s expected of them.

    Milla Jovovich has lots of experience in tough leading female, she looks capable on revealing the mystery and fending off threats, though there’s not much personality other than aforementioned tough chick. Dylan McDermott as the supervisor has the air of reliable ally, and thankfully without being forced in romantic subplot. To round it up, Pierce Brosnan plays as a professional who works for mysterious party. He expectedly has on-screen presence, but his character is a one-dimensionally bloodthirsty.

    Cinematography is solid, capitalizing on prominent view of London. It displays some nice shots of the streets and residential area, even in smaller scale setting the movie has good ambiance. Action and mystery are decent, none stand out too much or has remarkable twists, they simply get the job done.

    Overall, “Survivor” isn’t demanding nor does it offer anything novel in any way, this isn’t Bond or Bourne, which is all right. The premise works in the confined boundary of action thriller, the fine cast and pleasing scenery will entertain to some degree.

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