April 14, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Mark Pellington
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed remote mountain area (and briefly in Oregon), the plane-crash drama “Survive” features a predominantly white cast with some African Americans representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A pessimistic woman and an optimistic man struggle to survive and find help in a remote mountain area after they become the only survivors of a plane crash.
Culture Audience: “Survive” will appeal primarily to fans of actress Sophie Turner (a former star of “Game of Thrones”) and tearjerking, suspenseful disaster dramas.
The streaming service Quibi (which launched on April 6, 2020) has set itself apart from its competitors by offering only original content, and each piece of content is 10 minutes or less. Therefore, content that Quibi has labeled a “movie” actually seems more like a limited series, since Quibi will only make the “movie” available in “chapters” that look like episodes. The compelling drama “Survive” is one of Quibi’s flagship movies that began streaming on the service on Quibi’s launch date.
“Survive” takes a simple concept—two plane-crash survivors (a man and woman with seemingly opposite personalities) try to find their way out of a remote mountain area—and turns it into a suspenseful thriller and a poignant love story at the same time. Although “Survive” might draw comparisons to the 2017 Kate Winslet/Idris Elba film “The Mountain Between Us,” which had the same concept, “Survive” is more emotionally genuine and more artistically filmed than “The Mountain Between Us.” It’s a shame that “Survive” won’t be released in theaters like “The Mountain Between Us” was, because some of the scenes in “Survive” are worthy of the biggest screen possible.
Directed by Mark Pellington and written by Richard Abate and Jeremy Ungar, “Survive” begins with female protagonist Jane (played by Sophie Turner) about to be discharged from her stay at a mental-health facility for young people (ages 14 to 22) called Life House, which is located in the woods somewhere in northern Oregon. Jane has a history of suicidal thoughts and cutting herself. She’s also haunted by the fact that suicide is not uncommon in her family. Jane’s father (played by Jo Stone-Fewings, in flashback scenes) committed suicide when she was about 7 years old, by shooting himself while she was in the next room.
Jane is still angry about the way her father died, and she’s also struggling with feelings of guilt and self-hatred over her father’s suicide. Although Jane has a very loving and supportive mother (played by Caroline Goodall), Jane tells her mother that she feels like a loser. Needless to say, Jane has a very pessimistic and cynical attitude about life.
One of the last things that Jane does before she checks out of Life House is steal a lot of medication from the facility’s pharmacy. (Jane was able to get the security code to unlock the large glass cabinet containing all the drugs.) She plans to overdose on the drugs in the bathroom of the plane that she’s taking back home to New Jersey.
While in the airport seating area, waiting to board the plane, Jane strikes up a conversation with a friendly man named Paul (played by Corey Hawkins), who is on the same flight. At first Jane is a little stand-offish to Paul, but she eventually warms up to him a little bit. He’s eating a frosted snack and she nicely tells him that he’s got some frosting on the side of his mouth. They have a laugh over it.
When they board the plane—surprise, surprise—Jane and Paul find out that they are seated right next to each other. Paul has no idea that Jane is planning to commit suicide in the airplane’s bathroom. While Jane is in the bathroom, laying out all the pills and capsules that she plans to take for the overdose, the plane suddenly goes into emergency mode and ends up crashing in a snow-covered mountain area.
Jane and Paul are only slightly injured but discover to their horror that they are the only survivors of the plane crash, and they have no idea where they are. Paul thinks it’s best to try to find help (there’s no cell phone service in this area), but Jane refuses and tells Paul that she’d rather stay in whatever is left of the plane.
Paul tells Jane that people don’t know where they are and that Jane will probably die if she stays there, because it’s very likely that snow coming down the hilly embankment could bury her. Jane stubbornly tells Paul that she doesn’t care about dying and yells at him to go ahead without her. As Paul starts to walk away, Jane changes her mind and decides to go with Paul in their quest to find help.
The rest of the story chronicles Jane and Paul’s nightmarish fight for survival. There are the expected tropes that disaster movies have where people are trapped on a snowy mountain with no food and only the clothes on their backs: The torturous treks through the snow, the near-death experiences on cliffs, the scary encounters with wild animals.
During this ordeal, Jane and Paul naturally get closer to each other. Paul opens up to Jane about the emotional scars he has from his mother’s death. Just like Jane lost her father at a young age, so too did Paul lose his mother before he became a teenager. Paul later confesses to Jane that he was attracted to Jane the minute he saw her.
One of the best things about “Survive” is the cinematography from David Devlin. There are some truly majestic views as well as terrifying shots of this remote mountain area. Turner and Hawkins are utterly believable in their roles and do an excellent job of portraying the life-or-death journey of these two strangers who end up relying on and trusting each other in ways that they didn’t expect. The emotional connection that Paul and Jane have will keep viewers hooked as much as the question of whether or not they’re going to survive being trapped on this mountain.
The weakest aspect of “Survivor” is that it could have used more realism in showing how the harsh, subzero weather would have had an effect on Paul and Jane. Because they are not dressed in clothes that can withstand this type of weather over a long period of time, Paul and Jane definitely would’ve had hypothermia at some point.
And there’s no indication of what kind of food they were eating. In the middle of a snowy forest, there’s no fruit growing on trees. And there are no scenes of Paul and Jane being able to get any animals to eat. Paul and Jane are trapped on the mountain for several days, but they don’t show any signs of starvation. However, some injuries do occur, which are portrayed realistically.
Despite the flaws in “Survivor” that overlook showing realistic effects of starvation and long-term exposure to freezing temperatures, the story has a life-affirming message that will emotionally touch people and probably bring tears to some people’s eyes. “Survivor” also shows that trusting someone with your heart is all the more meaningful if you love yourself too.
Quibi premiered the first three chapters of the 12-chapter “Survive” on April 6, 2020.