Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 96 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. The action movies tracks a government agent who is targeted for assassination after uncovering a terrorist plot, so there is some language but mostly violence, including a few different bombings, shootings, some hand-to-hand combat, and the inclusion of actual footage from Sept. 11, 2001, which seems particularly distasteful for a thriller like this.
Milla Jovovich and Pierce Brosnan give it their action all in the thriller ‘Survivor,’ but their performances are wasted on the obvious, cliched plot. This thriller never seems anything but low-budget.
By Roxana Hadadi
Action movies have to some kind of giddiness. They have to excite viewers, even in their outlandishness—cars flying out of buildings in “Furious 7,” or the Hulk and Iron Man crashing through a downtown skyline in “The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron”—to please teenagers and adults alike. But the overly serious “Survivor” apparently never got the memo.
From distastefully using actual footage of Sept. 11, 2001, as character development for its protagonist to then blowing up buildings for subplots that go nowhere, “Survivor” is a series of increasingly irritating missteps. The film’s focus on terrorism and use of that 9/11 footage may make it uncomfortable or even boring for teenagers, and its obvious plot will make it disinteresting for parents, as well. With so many other action options in theaters right now, there is nothing setting “Survivor” apart.
The film focuses mainly on Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich, of the “Resident Evil” franchise), a Foreign Service officer who is also a security expert; her job is to assess visa applications on whether the individual may have terrorism connections. On assignment in the American embassy in London, looking specifically for gas and chemical specialists who may be attempting bombings, Kate has a bad feeling about an application from a Romanian doctor trying to visit the United States. But her concerns are brushed aside by her boss and by an American diplomat who doesn’t want to damage relations between the U.S. and other countries, and it seems like Kate may have been wrong after all.
Well, until she’s targeted by an assassin, the Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan, of “The World’s End”), who takes out nearly her entire office while they’re eating lunch at a café, blowing up the restaurant to get to Kate. She manages to escape, but the Watchmaker is involved in a scheme with that Romanian doctor, and he can’t rest until Kate is dead. So starts a chase across various countries and continents, as Kate attempts to evade death, clear her name (because American authorities think she may have been involved somehow), and foil whatever terrible plan the Watchmaker is part of. Can she do it all?
Former model Jovovich has made a career out of playing the butt-kicking protagonist in B-level action films, and she does nicely here; although her character is supposed to be a desk agent with no real fighting experience, Jovovich can’t hide the fluidity of her movements, and she brings a good physical presence to her character. The same goes for Brosnan, who has followed in Liam Neeson’s footsteps by still taking violent roles into his senior years; there’s a throwaway line early in the film about how the Watchmaker has had so much plastic surgery that no one knows what he looks like, and it’s amusing that he would end up looking like James Bond.
But their performances don’t help the film make any sense, or have any impact. There are too many subplots that go nowhere (like the Watchmaker blowing up a housing development to test out a bomb, with no repercussions whatsoever) and silly developments (Kate is supposed to be on a most-wanted list, but is able to forge a passport and waltz through a U.S. airport with no danger) that stretch any kind of credibility, and juxtaposing this all with footage from Sept. 11, 2001, feels very distasteful.
Ultimately, “Survivor” doesn’t make a case for itself, or provide any reasons for why it should be distinguishable from so many other action movies that come out each year. It takes itself too seriously but doesn’t offer anything worthwhile in return, and in a summer blockbuster season with so many other enjoyable movies for parents and children to see together, “Survivor” should deservedly be lost in the shuffle.
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