Alex Reviews Survivor - Cheap, Lazy Thriller That Embarrassingly Thinks It's Deep

Pierce Brosnan must have been offered a lot of money to star in this.

Rating: ˜… Survivor is a film so lazy the only way to rationalise its existence is to imagine the crew only had a long weekend to make it. It's one of those cheap spy thrillers that fills out the few screens at the multiplex not taken by big budget spectacle in the summer months and the film has seemingly no qualms with aiming that low. Not only is the acting phoned in and the plot paper-thin, but the whole production is so irritatingly sloppy that you€™d feel robbed if you€™d got this from the direct-to-DVD section of Poundland. The cast feel like they've been brought over from a different film by mistake. Milla Jovovich is Kate Abbott, an illustriously regarded American immigration officer, which could be read as an attempt to go against type (if a starring role in one lowest common denominator franchise can be called a type), but a descent into all-out action when a failed assassination sends her on the run makes it clear the film isn't interested in exploring her character. Is Kate a meek every-woman thrust into a life or death situation or a competent agent ready to uncoil into action as the first sign of danger? Throughout the film she's both, sometimes at the same time, and Mrs. Anderson just isn't up to the job of balancing it. A bunch of British TV faces (including Frances de le Tour) also pop up as members of the US Embassy. They try with the accent, but can't help but feel totally miscast. The only actor who fits on paper is Pierce Brosnan as deadly, efficient hitman The Watchmaker, sent after Kate when she kinda stumbles near a blandly-motivated terrorist plot, but even he feels flat. He stalks disinterested through every scene, looking at things with vague intent and walking as fast as regular people run. It could be read as a chilling role, but is really just the former Bond on auto-pilot. It isn't all the actors' faults though. They're all just working to keep their heads above the water against a brick of a script tied around their legs. The Watchmaker (whose secret, everyday job is, typical of the film, a watch-maker) uses the most high-tech gizmos available, yet takes time out during a pseudo-tense action sequence to bemoan technology and confronts his employee over chasing money when that's clearly his motivation, while the police and embassy personnel flip-flop between chastising Abbott for bending the rules and breaking procedure themselves.
These are just a couple of contradictions in a contrived screenplay (the whole plot is kicked in motion by the perpetually-alert Watchmaker taking his eye off the ball) that almost seems to be trying to make sure the audience is perpetually three steps ahead of every character. The film shows every event that relates to the story in chronological order, whether it's from Kate, her superiors, The Watchmaker or his boss' perspective, destroying any hope at narrative tension in the process. By the time Kate figures out what the big terrorist plot is, you've already worked out how the issue will be resolved and are deciding where to eat once you've survived this ordeal. All of these issues are accentuated by James McTeigue directing with as little effort as possible. There's the occasional slow-mo shot or poorly rendered CGI zoom, but for the most part this is pedestrian stuff. The use of stock sound effects, sometimes hilariously out of place (smashing a computer makes it fizz and pop, apparently), only add to the cheap vibe, making this feel like a companion piece to Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films, also out in UK cinemas this week, reminding us that underproduced tat can still make it to cinema screens. Thankfully for those who (justifiably) walked out, the film saves its true horror until last. Once the story's resolved in a predictably convenient way, a text card pops up informing you of all the terrorist attacks against NYC the CIA has stopped since 9/11. Juxtaposed with the Afghanistan-set prologue, which winds up only being the vague motivation for a minor character, it becomes clear Survivor thought is was a film with a deep, purposeful message about the current state of immigration and counter-terrorism. I almost feel sorry for it. Almost. What did you make of Survivor? Share your thoughts down in the comments.
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Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.