Survive Image


By Michael Talbot-Haynes | July 13, 2023

NOW ON VOD! When it comes to life, some people live on the sunny side of the mountain while others are on the sewer side. Nowhere does this metaphor rise higher than director Mark Pellington’s intense adventure drama Survive. Written by Richard Abate and Jeremy Ungar, the film begins with Jane (Sophie Turner) in a treatment center in Oregon, either being treated or held, depending on your perspective. Her roommate Kara (Laurel Marsden) is bipolar, while the new girl (Makgotso M) does self-mutilation.

Jane suffers from PTSD from her father’s suicide and isn’t interested in superficial wounds, wanting to put her lights out for good. She pretends to be well enough for Dr. M (Terence Maynard) to allow her to fly overnight to Jersey for Christmas with her mother (Caroline Goodall). However, Jane has stolen a rainbow of prescription narcotics from the institution and plans to swallow them in the airplane bathroom in order to quietly overdose while other passengers sleep. In the airport, she meets Paul (Corey Hawkins), a friendly guy who helps her through a jam with a TSA officer (Dane Foxx). Right when she is about to swallow the painkillers, the plane crashes into a snowy mountain range. Jane and Paul are the only survivors. Paul wants to figure out how to get them out of the snow and down the mountain they’re stuck on. Jane now needs to decide whether she still wants to die or help Paul stay alive.

“…the plane crashes…Jane now needs to decide whether she still wants to die or help Paul…”

Just as the plane unexpectedly falls from the sky, Survive surprisingly plunges into the Die Hard debate of what qualifies as a true Christmas movie. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be chasing the yuletide mantle, as it avoids Christmas lights for most of the picture except in one crucial scene. Also, the holiday timing is used here mostly as an excuse as the instigator for a cross-country, overnight flight. As such, a lot of the seasonal aspects may seem like little more than window dressing.

However, what the filmmakers have made is the kind of Christmas movie you rarely see and is just what a certain subset of the population has been looking for. This is a true holiday film because Christmas is the biggest season for suicides. Christmas is especially lethal for loneliness and depression because at no other time do you feel you are missing out on the happiness you are forbidden. It isn’t by accident that the suicide-themed fantasy It’s a Wonderful Life became a classic to watch every year. The screenplay, based on the novel by Alex Morel, creates an ornate mausoleum of self-murder that the audience is led into and locked inside. The detailed tour of suicidal thought patterns goes into areas that go past the Sylvia Plath sector. As someone who has lost too many friends to such an act, I found the set-up harrowing. I have never been so glad to see a plane crash in my life.

Survive (2023)

Directed: Mark Pellington

Written: Richard Abate, Jeremy Ungar

Starring: Sophie Turner, Corey Hawkins, Laurel Marsden, Makgotso M, Terence Maynard, Caroline Goodall, Dane Foxx, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Survive Image

"…a bona fide Christmas colossus..."

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