"Survivor" is a gripping thriller about State Department employee Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich), newly posted in the American embassy in London. Kate is charged with stopping terrorists from getting into the U.S. which puts her directly in the line of fire: targeted for death, framed for crimes she didn't commit, discredited and on the run. Now she must find a way to clear her name and stop a large-scale terrorist attack set for New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square.
Survivor is a thriller picture that throws way too many elements into the pot without much chemistry. Immigration, espionage, explosions, crafty hitmen, post-9/11 hysteria and government corruption are stirred together in a messy mixture that never really amounts to much. Hardly any of these actors ever meet and just sort of go through the motions - passing each other by as the plot prattles on. Such is the relationship of our protagonist and antagonist who only meet each other in gun battles and with their few dialogue exchanges being violent grunts.
Milla Jovovich, best known as the kick-butt lead from the Resident Evil movies, takes on another leading role as bureaucrat Kate Abbott. She processes visas at Grosvenor Square in London and keeps an eye out for terrorists. Don’t let her dull job fool you - she managed to sneak a motorcycle from the Resident Evil movies into this picture. She’s not just any visa processor as she’s the loose cannon of the agency - pissing off the chief with her leads about spotting possible threats. Sure enough, one of her suspected travelers IS a terrorists and skips right by the process because her superiors are corrupt. More snooping leads to an explosive plot in which Kate soon finds herself on the run from expert gunmen/arsonist Nash aka “The Watchmaker” (Pierce Brosnan).
The chase itself features nothing all that tense aside from the inciting incident of an exploding building with Jovovich the survivor and Brosnan the pursuer. It’s a pleasing scene after a long stretch of administrative exposition needlessly drawn out for plot points that mostly sit on the shelf. Despite Jovovich dashing around London and over to New York, avoiding authorities and terrorist gunfire, she’s never given that surprising moment of clever evasion. Brosnan, however, gets some of the most ridiculous stunts as the chasing gunmen. He slides down an electrical cable as a quick means of getting down stairs just to show off the fact that he's still an active action star.
And that’s about all the showiness their is to the action. Not even a decent car chase with Jovovich zooming through traffic on her motorcycle. I know she can ride that thing so why does she spend most of the movie cowering behind corners? She’s never even given a decent chunk of dialogue that isn’t just plot-moving exposition. If Jovovich was searching for a movie that would give her more to do than be an average action star, then, boy, did she choose the wrong project for that.
It’s not just Jovovich who made a bad decision taking on such a bland project. There are just as many notable actors guilty of this in their supporting roles. Angela Bassett plays an American ambassador that does little more than shout and order from behind a table. Robert Forster does little more than bark and snarl as a corrupt embassy worker. James D’Arcy is a passive bore as the UK terror expert. Frances De La Tour sits behind a desk as Jovovich’s pal on the inside, directing her safely where she needs to go to prove her innocence.
Nobody really seems to be enjoying themselves in Survivor and who could blame them. The dialogue they have to work with is simple drivel, the chase scenes are a snooze and the plot is such a mess of themes that never add up to much. There’s something in here about revenge, greed and war, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Jovovich and Brosnan meet atop a roof in New York city to duke it out for the fate of the city on New Year’s Eve. And when even a grand scene such as that fails to impress, what’s left to entertain? I guess that 96 minute running time keeps the movie mercifully short so there’s that. I was counting down right along with the New Year’s Eve crowd for this picture to end so there’s at least an interactive element to this whole experience.