After 9/11, governments have become increasingly sensitive to possible terrorist attacks. While they may be unable to prevent every assault on home soil, they can cast a tighter-knit net to thwart potential enemies from entering the country. In Survivor, a State Department employee at the U.S. embassy in London discovers someone is cutting holes into her network and letting through some possibly dangerous swimmers.
Kate (Milla Jovovich) hasn’t had her post at the embassy long, but she came highly recommended after making a name for herself in Washington. Her job involves conducting more in-depth security checks on high-risk visa applicants. Unfortunately suspicions a terrorist plot is unfolding under their noses are founded and Kate may be getting too close to the truth. To ensure the integrity of the nefarious mission, a renowned gun-for-hire (Pierce Brosnan) is dispatched to take care of the problem. Now on the run and suspected of multiple, treasonous crimes, Kate must stop the terrorists herself and try to clear her name before it’s too late.
It’s occasionally amazing how dull a seemingly promising action movie can be in spite of certain factors working in its favour. The first act is a lot of paper pushing and power dynamics as Kate attempts to assert her authority over a grumpy manager (Robert Forster) and follow the trail of a possible breach in their protocols. To break up the bureaucracy, she’s shown to have a neglected social life and the infinite trust of her supervisor (Dylan McDermott). However outside of the Resident Evil action movie franchise with which Jovovich is synonymous, she has had little success on the big screen. And while this movie does occasionally utilize her considerable physicality, it’s forced to limit her prowess to match her character’s lack of training. Conversely, if the script had been adapted to take advantage of her talents it may have improved beyond a middle-of-the-road thriller.
This movie attempts to capitalize on the popularity of similar narratives in which the unlikely hero is suddenly put in a position to save the world all while evading the misled authorities and murderous enemies of state. Perhaps it’s a little stale, attempting to follow the formula too closely, or maybe it doesn’t have a firm enough grasp on the espionage/action/thriller genre, but there’s certainly a level of innovation or understanding missing. Brosnan’s assassin is the meticulous type that’s somewhat eccentric, making his repeated failure to eliminate the untrained target unintentionally comical. Kate, on the other hand, plays her archetypal role to a tee, though she should have been provided the opportunity to do more with the character. This is a significant step down for director James McTeigue, whose debut behind the camera was V for Vendetta in 2005.