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The Survivalist Bleak But Striking Post-Pandemic Drama
The Survivalist (Video On Demand)
Rating: ** ½
The Survivalist: When we first meet the film’s female protagonist Sarah(Ruby Modine) she is on the run from a ragged bunch of outlaws after a pandemic has wiped out nearly the entire world population.It’s a bleak brutal world out there. And director Jon Keeyes is not in the least interested in prettifying it.
And that’s the beauty—conditional as it may be—of this minimal lean and flab-free survivalist drama with some of America’s finest actors pitching in to have what looks like a good time during very bad times by play-acting a kind of catch-me-if-you-can game with the villains.
It would have looked enormously videogame-ish were it not for the actors who build a bulk of restrained realism during times of intense strain and loss.
Most of the film is shot on a farm owned by a loner(actually, with most of civilization gone,he doen’t have much of a choice) named Ben.It’s good to see one of American cinema’s most neglected actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers play the loner guarding his father’s land with a ferocity that replicates Leonard di Capio’s fight for survival in The Ravenant.
The well-written plot has an excellent first-half when Sarah, battered and wounded, hurls herself into Ben’s farm seeking asylum from the marauders led by a sufficiently sinister and creepy John Malkovich who says creepy things like, “You have to hand over the girl to me , she’s my destiny” with a gritty selfconfidence verging on narcissism. This is a man used to being treated as a god during a time of near-annihilation.
The savage subversion of the messiah into a monster is engrossing.And Ben’s determination to save Sarah from the plunderers is played out as cat-and-mouse game with claws and spikes. There is enough vital drama here to keep us invested for more than a 90- minutes except the last 20 minutes when mayhem becomes, not a necessity, but an affectation.
I thought this was going to be The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Instead it turns into Straw Dogs .Which is not such a bad thing.