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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Survivor movie review: security theater

by MaryAnn Johanson

Survivor red light

If there’s a thriller to be found in international travel regulations, this is not it. Makes a mockery of the unsung heroes it’s meant to celebrate.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

If there’s a thriller to be forged out of the bureaucracy of international travel regulations, Survivor is not it. Not even from the guy — James McTeigue — who brought us V for Vendetta.

Not even from Milla Jovovich (The Three Musketeers, Stone). She’s a badass security consultant — that’s a thing, it seems — riding a desk at the U.S. embassy in London, and she is on the lookout for suspicious physician and pharmaceutical types trying to travel to the United States, because bombs can be made from stuff you find in the OR . I’m sure that’s true… but I’m also pretty sure it’s true that the guy who knows how to make a bomb from nitrous oxide or insulin or whatever doesn’t actually need to get on a plane to New York in order for his expertise to be used to make a bomb that blows up there. And still, here’s this movie trying to make it Very Urgent that Jovovich’s Kate Abbott check everyone’s visa paperwork, and Very Ominous when she turns down one Eastern European doctor (Roger Rees: The Prestige, The Pink Panther).

Warning: No one will be admitted during the gripping “denying the visa application” scene. Medical authorities will be on hand to help those who are overcome by it.

So now Bad Guys hire an assassin to take Abbott out, because she Knows Too Much, or something, and Pierce Brosnan (A Long Way Down, The Love Punch) as the hitman is so much a showoff with a penchant for overkill that he bombs the restaurant where she is having lunch with coworkers. (How he knew they were going to be there is a mystery, although the culinary bomb he devises could potentially inspire a cooking competition TV reality show in which the stakes are really high.) Of course she escapes, and is now on the run, because stupid movie gins up a reason for her to be on the run so she can race around London’s photogenic locations in order to find the next plot point.

Survivor is written by first-timer Philip Shelby, who appears to know nothing about international diplomacy (like how diplomatic immunity exists), or London (like how it’s blanketed in CCTV that could instantly exonerate Abbott for the bad thing she is ridiculously framed for), or law enforcement. Apparently you can show up at a possible terrorist bombing in London, bark “American embassy!” at the cops guarding the police line, and without even having to show any ID, you will be ushered through into an active crime scene. I’ll have to try this sometime.

We know Abbott is a Hero, though, because her boss (Dylan McDermott: Olympus Has Fallen, The Campaign) snipes at those who doubt her: “She lost some of her best friends on 9/11.” He doesn’t add “dammit,” but it’s there.

There’s so much that makes no freakin’ sense at all here, which is all in aid of padding out the flimsiest of stories, but this actually offensive: Survivor is meant to be a tribute to the unsung security people who protect us from bad guys — as by checking wannabe travelers’ visa applications — and that’s an important job, if, as demonstrated by this movie, not a very exciting one. But it ends up making a mockery of the very security it’s meant to be celebrating. If the people protecting this are this unprofessional, and the procedures they have in place are this laughable, it’s a wonder we’re not all dead.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Survivor for its representation of girls and women.

red light 1 star

Survivor (2015)
US/Canada release date: May 29 2015 (VOD same day) | UK release date: Jun 05 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence, some action and brief strong language
BBFC: rated 12A (infrequent strong language, moderate violence)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Jurgan

    Generally, assassins try to keep a low-profile and kill people discreetly (hence the old “make it look like an accident/suicide” ploy). Blowing up an entire restaurant to kill one person seems pretty unprofessional.

  • RogerBW

    The people doing the checking are merely 95% unprofessional. (But the acting head of TSA has been transferred, so all problems are solved forever.)

    And bombs can be made from stuff you find in the plumbing supply store too, of course.

    “Oh no! My visa has been denied! I’ll just have to apply with one of my other passports!”

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