The one saving grace I can really identify in Survivor, is that it was all mercifully over before I even realised thanks to its bite-sized 96 minute running time. The film follows Milla Jovovich’s ‘Kate Abbot’, a hot-shot processor of visa applications (as thrilling as that sounds) at the American embassy in London. Kate must attempt to clear her name after she is set-up as the perpetrator of a bomb explosion in which several of her colleagues are killed, and from which she is the only ‘survivor’. Along the way she discovers details of a wider terrorist plot to take place on American soil.
First time writer Phillip Shelby attempts to produce a layered conspiracy plot by introducing a few international elements but everything is so clearly signposted, or somewhat irrelevant, that the twists and turns never arrive. He also manages to facilitate the tricky task of getting his characters to convene by having Kate wear an ID badge featuring a tracking device; said device is handily defective and so only starts giving off a signal when it’s time for a discussion with a remaining ally (Dylan McDermott) at the embassy for some exposition, or a quick action set-piece.
Pierce Brosnan is on hand to be utterly wasted as the worlds most deadly assassin, The Watchmaker, tasked with tracking down Kate after botching his initial attempt. She’s been asking too many questions regarding a couple of visa applications and so must be taken out of the picture. For being such a famed hitman, he is impressively poor at his job and so slow to act that he is consistently outmanoeuvred. While it would perhaps be silly to expect a subversion of his Bond persona after so many years have passed, it seems ridiculous not to take advantage of it given that he has so little else to do here except occasionally call Kate a ‘bitch’ after she evades him once more.
One of the more annoying aspects of the film is the heavy-handed manner in which we are reminded that the ultimate enemies here are, of course, Muslims. We open with an Afghanistan set battle, during which a couple of American soldiers are captured before one is covered in petrol and set ablaze. This all becomes briefly relevant as we learn it is the reason behind the act of betrayal of a fellow American at the embassy. The most offensively laid on moment though comes when, out of nowhere, a smoking image of the Twin Towers flashes up over Kates pained expression, while later we are informed that she ‘lost a lot of good friends that day’, by way of explaining her fierce commitment to the visa application process. All this seems so unreasonable when the terror plot appears to have a tenuous Romanian and financially motivated origin, though perhaps we are merely being reminded that ultimately Americans must now fear everyone, but especially Muslims.
After dodging The Watchmaker yet again, Kate infiltrates the locked-down embassy with relative ease, and then manages to get herself on a plane to New York where the real danger is due to unfold. As an afterthought we’re informed that it’s now New Year’s Eve, so that Kate can locate our assailants shockingly quickly in a packed Times Square before the ball drops, and wrap everything up in a neat package.
The film reaches to establish excitement and intrigue in its international conspiracy, but it’s all so half hearted that there’s never any real sense of danger. An extra half star could have been gleaned here if Survivor had at least had the decency to be comically bad, instead of just depressingly so.
Written by Christopher J. Smith
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Survivor is on wide release in UK Cinemas now.