Director: Jon Keeyes
Writer: Matthew Rogers
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, John Malkovich, Thaddeus Street, Jon Orsini and Ruby Modine
In The Survivalist the world has been ravaged by a pandemic that is quickly wiping out the population. It’s a story that feels all too possible given what we’ve all lived through in recent times. Sarah (Ruby Modine) is on the run from a cult who believe she’s immune. The cult leader Aaron (John Malkovich) believes he’s the chosen one to save the human race. Sarah seeks shelter on Ben’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) farm, who reluctantly hides her from the cult.
While the story is about a world on the brink of ending and a cult who believes they can save humankind, the film is very insular. It focuses in on a small group of characters, with most of the film being a stand-off between Ben and Aaron’s cult. The film starts with Sarah and her brother being chased by the cult, with Sarah’s brother getting gunned down to save her. The reason he is so willing to die for her is explained much later in the film in a satisfying revelation.
John Malkovich is an excellent actor and he’s not phoning in his performance here. He’s sinister and overbearing. He also puts most of the other cast to shame. There is a lot of clunky dialogue in the beginning, with a exposition heavy radio broadcast and the cult members not feeling very natural. Malkovich is completely believable as the cult leader, right up to the final moments. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is also great as Ben, a former FBI agent who is tasked with protecting Sarah.
The majority of the film is centred around an attack on Ben’s farm. One of the best scenes is a shoot-out early on. The cult members are running low on ammo and their entire aim is to keep Ben from getting back to the house. Once the action moves to the house, it does start to feel very tame. The farm looks great, with dull and bleak colours, matching the mood. The action just isn’t exciting enough. The punches don’t look real and since it’s one man versus the cult members you know who’s going to win the one on one fights for the most part.
There are no real surprises in the story, most of it is predictable. Ben is reluctant to help, but it’s clear he’s not a bad person, so he helps Sarah. You’ll see most of the plot points coming before they actually happen, and while there is a revelation late in the film, it doesn’t really change the course of the plot. It’s still an enjoyable thriller and Ben is an interesting character. The film never has a moment where it starts to feel too long, at ninety minutes it’s the perfect length.
The Survivalist is obviously a response to the last two years. It takes the idea of a world-ending pandemic and focuses in on a very small group of characters. The story is tame, and it is entertaining while it lasts. It won’t stay with you for much longer, but it’s good escapism with some decent action.
Signature Entertainment presents The Survivalist on Digital Platforms 11th October