Generic action thriller
At best, Survivor celebrates the men and women who have worked in counterterrorism since the 9/11 attacks. However, this message never quite gets the recognition it warrants until the writing literally appears on screen to introduce a statistic at the end. This film has a lot going for it with a deep, talented cast directed by James McTeigue, filmmaker of the cinematic masterpiece V for Vendetta. Those hoping he drew inspiration from his previous repertoire of V and Ninja Assassin for his latest action film are in for disappointment. Despite boasting an impressive cast and crew for a VOD motion picture, Survivor doesn’t recover from boring characters, a shaky plot, and poor writing.
Milla Jovovich (the Resident Evil franchise, The Fifth Element)leads the cast as Kate Abbott, an American Foreign Service Officer working in London. Despite Kate’s many talents, she has no flaws or interesting people/ hobbies in her life. Jovovich brings as much as she can to a boring, one-dimensional character on the run from bumbling terrorists. Granted, Kate’s arc has a Hitchcockian-wrong-man rhythm to it, but that’s as far as we can relate to this character. She also has a touch of Jason Bourne with her rogue nature and ferocious intelligence. Unlike the Bourne movies, however, we're lead from one act to the next via contrived chase sequence.
The villain, codenamed “The Watchmaker,” is played by action veteran Pierce Brosnan (the James Bond series, The November Man). We’ve seen Brosnan carry a silenced sidearm on screen before, but never as a bad guy, and never this ineffective. Brosnan’s Watchmaker is part of a triumvirate of villains whom you’d expect to be apprehended by the third act. He’s a sloppy hit man and a sloppier terrorist. The actor’s iteration of James Bond could have easily dispatched of these bad guys before the first act. In fact, Survivor draws a lot of its plot from the stock-shorting subplot of the 2006 Bond film, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig.
The rest of the impressive cast merely must have shown up for a paycheck because little acting was required. Academy Award nominee Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, The Descendants) has the most to work with and has only a few scenes. Another Oscar nom shows up in the form of Angela Bassett (Malcolm X, What’s Love Got to Do With It) as one of the top brass who shows up to bark orders and look concerned. Accomplished British stage and screen actor James D’Arcy (“Agent Carter,” Cloud Atlas) also appears as another investigator looking into Abbott’s affairs. Again, this is another example of a character without much going for him other than he’s a part of the movie’s plot. Dylan McDermott (“American Horror Story,” Olympus Has Fallen) perhaps has the most interesting character as Abbott’s boss who isn’t convinced that she’s gone bad.
Luckily, Survivor isn’t a movie one must pay to catch. When you download the Hoopla app, the film is included without charge. Milla Jovovich and Pierce Brosnan lead a post-9/11 action thriller with a generic plot populated with uninteresting characters. Despite direction from James McTeigue, Survivor never comes close to the same tier of other espionage staples like Jason Bourne or James Bond. If you can’t wait to get your fix of spy-jinks until Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation, Survivor at least tops out at a merciful ninety minutes.