Film Review: The Survivalist. 3.5/5 Stars

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From the beginning of cinema right through until the 1990’s the camera was not just the central element, it was a plaything, an experimental fulcrum that operated around and through the medium of actors, directors, lightening designers and scriptwriters. It was a method of prising apart the visual world and revealing reality to us in ways we might never have considered before and then suddenly, the fun was gone, well mostly.

Movies, film, cinema…….. however you might like to describe it, the medium exists because of the camera but somewhere in recent decades the camera has lost much of its potency and many young filmmakers seem oblivious to its potential but in The Survivalist (2015) we find the camera standing equal with all the players, not just as observer and witness, and the result is refreshing.

One particular scene set in a field where the main cast are caught up in game of cat and mouse with a feral interloper is heavily reminiscent of the opening sequence of Orson Welles’s ‘Touch Of Evil’ and for this film geek it was an enormously gratifying moment to see the camera put through its paces in such an inventive way.

The Survivalist, a post apocalyptic thriller set in the dripping Atlantic forests of Ireland, is a bleak journey into world undone by climate change and over population. Even in its brightest moments when the sun has burst through the clouds and cut through the dense cover of trees it is only to reveal shadows cut from humanities recent and rapid descent into anarchy.

The central character is a lone predator who navigates the world with sharpened senses honed by years of vigilance. He acts without mercy doing what he has to do to survive in world that has lost all its humanity. When two women venture into his territory, the opportunity for comfort and company is swamped by the certain knowledge that no one in this dog-eat-dog environment is to be trusted. The burgeoning relationship is negotiated through tense whispers at the point of a gun and while he gradually lets down his guard we know its not going to turn out well. This is what the world has become.

The post-apocalyptic genre, by in large, is set in a chaotic ‘world-gone-mad’ where the usual rules of human interaction have necessarily been put aside because an ‘end of time’ event. In this world malevolence has been unchained and is set loose to do battle with whatever goodness remains. It is yet another method of exploring of one humanities most enduring narratives, that of ‘good vs. bad’ but in ‘The Survivalist’ the writers have taken it one step further and have eliminated the ‘good’ from the story giving us nothing but bad vs. even more bad.

‘The Survivalist’ is the post-apocalyptic thriller as art film and is a pretty decent addition to the genre. Bleak, terrible and beautifully crafted, it is sculptural portrait carved from the bones of the tortured living. Okay, it isn’t much fun but it is compelling.

Kudos to the cast who give it all they have got especially Martin McCann who, based on this performance, looks like he might have the goods for a big career.

 

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