For Reel

The Survivalist (2015)
February 29, 2016, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Stephen Fingleton
3 Stars
The SurvivalistThe opening sequence of The Survivalist is a thrilling play of graphic design, charting the course of red and blue lines that represent population and oil production. As oil production falls off a cliff, so too does population, with the image’s focus following the abruptly descending line that stands in for mass death. It’s a beautifully abstract way of conveying the all-too-familiar method of handling exposition in a post-apocalyptic film, a sort of Saul Bass title sequence that sets the tone and lets audiences in on exactly what needs to be understood. It is the most radical and memorable thing in a picture which is otherwise relentlessly bleak and brutal, its sense of paranoia ceaseless and only punctuated by chaotic acts of violence. The survivalist (Martin McCann, sporting a braided mullet) of the title lives relatively peacefully in a shack on a small farm in the woods before he is confronted by two women–one older (Olwen Fouere), the other young (Mia Goth). They seek his crops and shelter and are willing to offer sex as their means of exchange. As becomes clear, however, the title could apply to any of the three characters. No one can be trusted because they wouldn’t have survived this long if they weren’t merciless. Director Stephen Fingleton struggles to find much to say about these characters other than the fact that they’ve found trusting one another impossible given their circumstances, but he does craft a number of effectively suspenseful sequences and shows a great patience in letting the action play out between long silences. In the film’s most showy moment, his camera follows a coming standoff between characters in a tall grass field. The camera movement, which raises with the protagonist before craning overhead and revealing his foe, is impressive as a piece of visual artistry, but it also effectively creates the tension of the scene by informing the audience of proximity, laying out the landscape, and articulating exactly where the danger lies.

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