film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Survivor 2015 * * * Stars

SurvivorDirector: James McTeigue
Year: 2015
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Milla Jovovich, Dylan McDermott

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 would 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 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. It involves 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 while not 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.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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