A Foreign Service Officer (Milla Jovovich) newly posted to the American embassy in London is charged with stopping terrorists from getting into the US. After surviving a vicious attack on the embassy, she finds herself framed for crimes she didn't commit and racing to elude assassins while trying to clear her name and stop a large-scale terrorist attack set for New Year's Eve.
'Survivor' is one of those movies that you'll probably enjoy sitting through if you don't put too much thought into what is going on. Sadly, my brain is never quite able to do that, and I found myself getting frustrated with the action movie clichés and continual stupidity of some of the characters in this title. However, the movie is still well-directed (by V for Vendetta's James McTeigue) and features a number of familiar actors, not the least of which is former James Bond Pierce Brosnan playing against type as a ruthless assassin.
Before I get into the problems I had with 'Survivor', let's talk first about the premise for the movie, which is actually taken from an angle I've never seen before. The general plotline of this movie revolves around stopping a group of terrorists. But instead of making our hero, Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich), a federal agent or a spy, she's simply an American Embassy employ (the bulk of the movie takes place in London) who approves or denies visas for foreigners attempting to visit the United States. There is a throw-away line in the movie about her possibly being ex-CIA (mostly likely to explain some of her physical prowess in the story), but it's never mentioned again or followed up on.
Kate becomes suspicious of a British scientist's (Roger Rees) reasons for wanting to travel to the United States, but in true movie form, few of her superiors, including both the local British authorities and the American ambassador (played by Angela Bassett), think she has any cause for trying to detain the guy. When the terrorist group learns of Kate's efforts to stop the visa from being processed, they send their top assassin, dubbed 'The Watchmaker' (Pierce Brosnan) after her. This was my first "huge" problem with the storyline. These terrorists are trying not to call any attention to themselves, so they think it's a good idea to kill the one person who is trying to prevent their man from flying to the United States? Won't that, umm…result in all kinds of suspicion? Even if you forgive the storyline for that, instead of disposing of his prey quietly, The Watchmaker decides that the best way to kill his target is to blow up an entire restaurant where she's having dinner. Subtle, dude…real subtle.
Kate isn't in the restaurant when it blows up, but a lot of her co-workers are. She soon discovers that one of her other co-workers (whose identity I won't reveal here) was working for the terrorists, and soon the authorities are after her for both his death as well as for the restaurant explosion. This, of course, is just a plot contrivance to put our main character on the run and in a situation where no one believes her and it's up to her to discover the truth. The few in the movie that do believe her – notably her boss, played by Dylan McDermott – are either ignored by the 'powers that be' or disposed of by The Watchman, so Kate has no one to turn to. Just once I want to see a movie like this one (and, let's be honest, we've seen a lot of movies like this one) where the superiors actually trust and believe the hero and support her or him throughout the story.
Without giving much more away, the finale of 'Survivor' takes Kate and The Watchmaker to New York City (although I'm pretty sure London is doubling for NYC in these scenes) where the terrorists plan to initiate their havoc on New Year's Eve. The problem here is that the bad guys have set up an arbitrary 'ticking clock' that isn't necessary whatsoever for their plan to succeed. In fact, their plan is so laughably elaborate that most home viewers will wonder why they're going through all the trouble, when there are 1,000 different ways to do what they intend to do in about a million less conspicuous ways.
Given all the above, it probably sounds like I really hated 'Survivor'. I didn't…it's watchable enough, but I always get frustrated when I see actors trying their best inside a story structure that doesn't respect them or the intelligence of the audience. However, if one can go into this film with a grain of salt and knowing what kind of action/thriller they're about to watch, there's an enjoyable enough time to be had here…at least for one viewing.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Survivor' makes it to Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25 GB disc with no inserts. A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop the case. The disc is front-loaded with trailer for Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, 'Dawn Patrol', By the Gun, and Automata. The main menu consists of a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A-locked.
'Survivor' was shot digitally and arrives on Blu-ray with a colorful, saturated look to it, but one that still very much has that 'blue tint' appearance that we see in so many of today's movies. Details are pretty strong throughout, as are black levels, which are deep and make 'Survivor's darker scenes – of which there are many – easy to distinguish. I did notice some minor aliasing during some camera pans, but these are few and far between. For the most part, this is a very nice looking high-def transfer that offers plenty of 'pop' for the home viewer.
Both the back of the box on this release and the menu itself identify the main audio track here as being lossless English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. However, what is actually provided is lossy English 5.1 Dolby Digital. For a lossy track, 'Survivor's 5.1 presentation sounds pretty good – particularly during the movie's opening scene, which involves a wartime firefight in Afghanistan. There's lots of activity in the audio, with some noticeable fun with directionality, as well as some frequent LFE use during the action sequences and explosions that take place in the movie. One can only wonder how good a lossless TrueHD track would have sounded for this movie, but this one shouldn't cause too many complaints.
In addition to the 5.1 main track, this Blu-ray also contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available in both English SDH and Spanish.
There's probably a really good story hiding somewhere inside 'Survivor', but the movie hits so many familiar and clichéd action notes that's it's hard not to get frustrated with the events as they unfold. Still, there's enough star power here to make this one worth a look, if not a purchase. Give it a Rent.