Years ago I received one of the most memorable responses I’ve heard to the question, “How was it?”
I’d asked about “Chain Reaction”, to which my friend responded, “There was a lot of running.”
And so it is with “Survivor”.
Here we meet crack US Foreign Service Officer Kate Abbott, assigned to London. There’s a lot of extra pressure since the 9/11 attacks when it comes to checking passports and allowing visitors into the States, and she has (of course) an uncanny knack for sniffing out the suspicious. She’s the best, which is why they brought her in.
Today it’s an esteemed MD, trying to attend a medical conference. But Abbott don’t like him and won’t let him in. The Brits respond indignantly that he’s an upstanding doctor above reproach, and tell Abbott’s bosses they’d better get their dog back on the leash. Unfortunately, when Dr. No receives aid from an unlikely source, Abbott forced to go on the run when – surprise! – it looks like she’s part of the plot.
Oh – and of course there’s an assassin. Who is, of course, the best one in the world.
Commence to running.
Now, I wasn’t expecting miracles when it came to the plot; we’ve been full up on the “Bourne” franchise for years, and are between “Salt”s as we speak. But I’m also the first to assert that just because something’s been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done again, provided it’s innovative. Thus I was completely prepared to regard Survivor favorably.
And then there’s Milla Jovovich, my primary draw. She spends much of her time in one-dimensional characters, but in 2009 she truly captured my attention in “A Perfect Getaway”. I’d only watched it because it happened to be on and a friend was about to spend Thanksgiving on Kauai, so I thought the scenery would be fun. It was – and so was the movie, written and directed by David Twohy, nothing wrong with that (and with a fun spot of Chris Hemsworth before he was Chris Hemsworth).
With “A Perfect Getaway” Jovovich really got to stretch her legs, an opportunity she again enjoyed the next year with “Stone”, and I was hoping for more of the same. I must confess that I don’t actively seek her out, but when she crossed my path with “Survivor”, I was all in.
Sadly, “Survivor” keeps her in the box, and her accomplished colleagues with her.
Director James McTeigue has certainly earned entry into the action/thriller club given his time with the Wachowskis; he worked on the “Matrix” trilogy, and even went on to direct their “V for Vendetta”. However, unlike Keanu Reeves (hello “Chain Reaction”), he didn’t study as diligently under their tutelage as did Reeves, and was unable to overcome a lackluster script.
Characters were reduced to ciphers, and the Wachowskian crispness it should have enjoyed wilted into a forgettable assemblage of spare parts. Lacking any originality off which to riff, the actors were left with scowling, sneering, scolding, and fretting as their only tools – Pierce Brosnan being the worst among them precisely because he was the best. (I’m not even counting Angela Bassett, who had about four lines and probably just needed the twins’ tuition.)
It’s worth noting that “Survivor” is screenwriter Philip Shelby’s feature debut; as such, it wasn’t poor, only undeveloped, and for whatever unfortunate reason McTeigue didn’t compensate for it in a way one might he expect he is able. I’m inclined to think each has more in him, but I’m disinclined to try again if it’s with each other.
And did I mention – there is a lot of running.
(Aside: Fun Spot – watch for the neighborhood and restaurant from “Perfect Sense”, which if you haven’t seen, you really should.)
Story: A US Foreign Service Officer is forced to go on the run after a suspicious Brit trying to enter the country receives aid from an unlikely source.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller
Themes: Competence, Vengeance
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, James D’Arcy, Roger Rees, Frances de la Tour
Directed by: James McTeigue
Running time: 96 minutes
Houston release date: May 29, 2015 at the AMC Studio 30 theater in Houston TX
Tickets: Check IMDb.com or your local listings
Screened May 26, 2015 via studio screener