Synopsis: Jane has to fight for her life when her plane crashes on a remote snow-covered mountain. Paul is the only other remaining survivor and together they embark on a harrowing journey out of the wilderness.
Review: With new streaming service Quibi launching with over 50 series to choose from, you may be trying to figure out which ones to watch or whether you want to shell out for another monthly subscription. While there are plenty of reality, news, and competition series available at launch, the movies in chapters (aka TV series) are what we are most intrigued by on this website. With episodes that clock in at ten minutes or less, can you tell a full scale story that is both engaging to viewers and well made? With YouTube and Vimeo chock full of short films that are able to accomplish just that, can Quibi compete? While Most Dangerous Game is Quibi’s attempt to tell a thriller/action story, Survive is a much different story.
Survive opens each episode with a disclaimer regarding depictions of suicide and mental illness. As you may have seen in the trailers, Sophie Turner‘s character Jane has no intention of making it home after a stay at a rehab facility. In fact, the entire first episode is set at the Lighthouse as we get to know what Jane has dealt with on the road to recovery. Narrated by Turner, this first chapter shows why Survive is not quite as easy to consume in these Quibi sized segments. While the trailers show us Turner and Corey Hawkins‘ Paul in a story that seems to cross the 1990s movie ALIVE with the recent Idris Elba and Kate Winslet movie THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US, Survive takes a fair amount of time to get to the actual plane crash.
The problem with Survive is that it doesn’t always work within the Quibi time constraints. Of the four episodes available at the time of this review, three end with a tidy cliffhanger that leads into the next chapter. One of the episodes ends abruptly and seemingly mid-scene which is jarring when the end credits suddenly display. That also means the first minute of the next episode has to revisit the close of the previous one which feels redundant. It may not come across that way if you watch the episodes daily rather than binging them but for me it felt rushed and unfinished.
Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Alex Morel, Survive does echo the young adult classic Hatchet by giving us a narrator who has to put her skills to the test to make it through some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. The added twist here is that Jane is suicidal and being put into a situation where she has something to live for definitely adds a dimension. While Sophie Turner spends most of her screen time in these episodes emotionally distant, she portrays Jane as something of an unreliable narrator but one that we still want to root for. Corey Hawkins does the most heavy lifting here as the very likeable Paul. The pair of actors have solid chemistry and play off of each other well.
Directed by Mark Pellington (ARLINGTON RD, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES), the first episode of Survive is cut like a music video with quick edits and a frenetic pace. From the second chapter and beyond, the series settles into a more conventional style. There are some stylistic flairs added here and there, especially during the plane crash sequence, but for the most part the story and characters take center stage. Pellington also makes sure that Survive fits the Quibi visual model with the editing customized for the landscape versus portrait viewing modes. Occassionally, the use of green screen is noticeable, but not often enough to make it a detriment. Most of the production values here are of high quality and with only two actors to contend with, the stunts are able to be a bit more involved. But Survive is not an action movie as much as it is a psychological story of how sucicidal tendencies can become a will to live.
Survive has an intriguing premise that does a good job of showing depression and suicide in a way that doesn’t paint it in a sensational manner. Sophie Turner, in her frst series role since Game of Thrones, gives us another tormented character who develops into a strong individual. The interplay between Turner and Hawkins works well on screen but beyond the novelty of the Quibi platform, this is not a story we haven’t seen before. There are some nice moments of cinematography throughout but overall this is a decent story told in an unconventional manner. Still, if you are shelling out for Quibi, you could do worse than spending ten minutes each day seeing where this story goes.
Survive debuts episodes daily beginning April 6th on Quibi.