The Survivalist: Sci-Fi Action Thriller Based on Frightening Recent Events

The 2021 sci-fi action thriller The Survivalist is loosely based on the events surrounding the not-quite-apocalyptic Coronavirus outbreak during the last few years. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic remains a global health problem and has claimed more than 6.8 million lives as of February 2023. It is not the first film to exploit the pandemic as a plotline tool, and almost certainly will not be the last.

The Survivalist

Events in the film are set in the near future when the Coronavirus disease has annihilated most of the human population. Vaccines are mostly ineffective. As the virus continues to undergo one mutation after another, the uninfected find refuge in survivor camps. Meanwhile, the United States is left in disarray without law enforcement and the military to maintain order. Society is in total chaos, and the problem is exacerbated by the nuclear reactor meltdowns caused by the skilled worker shortage. It is now a post-apocalyptic and once again wild west America in which everyone with guns can call the shots.
Like in most post-apocalyptic movies, viewers are presented with a small group of people trying to survive in the middle of chaos. There are no zombies or aliens taking over the world, but only an unseen deadly virus that kills everyone in its path. Survivors are comprised of both the immune and those who managed to beat the disease. Also similar to many end-of-time films, the few remaining survivors are involved in a deadly armed conflict.
The Survivalist

The Survivalist, starring John Malkovich as Aaron and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Ben, specifically mentions a reference to the Delta variant of the virus that started the swift downfall of human civilization. It turned out the film went into post-production in late 2020; it was around the same time as the emergence of the Delta variant, but before the vaccine reached worldwide distribution. Because the film was released in October 2021, the premise seemed somewhat weirdly outdated.
The Delta variant, in reality, was first identified in late 2020 in India. It would become the predominant variant of the coronavirus before Omicron took its place. The United States had seen a steady decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization throughout early 2021, but then the arrival of Delta reversed the trend. Case numbers surged even in states where most people had been vaccinated. Delta could cause breakthrough infection, in which the fully vaccinated became infected. In other words, Delta rendered the vaccines useless. The good thing was that the vaccinated experienced less severe symptoms.
The Survivalist

As it stands today, the world is much safer from the coronavirus than it used to be several years ago. The United States depicted in the film is a much more shockingly dreadful place to live. In the bleak alternative reality of ­The Survivalist, armed hunters known as “land pirates” are on the hunt for a young woman named Sarah (portrayed by Ruby Modine), who is believed to be immune and holds the key to survival. Leading the gang of hunters is Aaron (portrayed by John Malkovich), a survivor determined to find a cure and repopulate the world with Sarah, whether she likes it or not.
The cat-and-mouse game eventually leads Sarah and the hunters to a large piece of land owned by Ben, a former FBI agent. He has been in relative safety from the ravaging pandemic thanks to the isolated nature of his farm. He barely makes contact with anyone else, until he is forced to rescue a damsel in distress from a group of armed hostiles.

Since his unlikely recovery from the Coronavirus disease, Aaron’s messiah complex continues to dominate his brain. He claims to do everything for the sake of the human species, but deep down the intention is fueled by nothing but lust and arrogance. Although his entire plan to save and repopulate the planet might sound noble enough to himself, anybody with common sense see the implausibility of it all.

Once the story gets to the farmhouse, it becomes apparent the pandemic is merely used as a background. The Survivalist is an outright action film, set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop with a hint of Coronavirus. Sarah is no longer the central character throughout the kill-or-be-killed sequences involving Ben and the land pirates. It is a bit strange because the conflicts and struggles that Ben has to go through are all because of Sarah. Most of the suspenseful moments come from the scarcity of ammunition, which inevitably triggers several hand-to-hand combat scenes between the sole hero and the group of villains.

As for the stories themselves, the film doesn’t offer many unpredictable plot twists and complications. Ben’s background story brings another flavor to the storyline, but not by much. It is clear Ben is not a bad person despite his reluctance to help Sarah. Some keen viewers can probably guess what will happen before the actual scenes take place. A shocking revelation at the end of the film is quite a surprise although it does not really change the plotline.

We had a lukewarm reaction to The Survivalist because of what we felt was a predictable plotline. How about you? Did you like it? Tell us how you felt after you saw it. We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know.

What are other John Malkovich movies?

According to, these are Malkovich’s highest-rated movies.

  • Death of a Salesman (100%)
  • Of Mice and Men (97%)
  • I’m Going Home (96%)
  • In the Line of Fire (96%)
  • Being John Malkovich (94%)
  • Dangerous Liaisons (94%)
  • The Killing Fields (93%)
  • Riley’s Game (92%)

Where were the worst nuclear accidents?

According to, these are the accidents.

  • Kyshtym (1957)
  • Windscale (1957)
  • Three Mile Island (1979)
  • Chernobyl (1986)
  • Fukushima (2011)

Go to to read more details about these nuclear accidents.

What are some adverse effects of vaccines?

According to, there can be moderate to severe problems with vaccines. Here are some of them.

  • Serious eye infection, or loss of vision, due to the spread of the vaccine virus to the eye.
  • Rash on the entire body
  • Severe rash on people with eczema
  • Encephalitis which can lead to permanent brain damage
  • Severe infection beginning at the vaccination site
  • Death

Remember most side effects are mild, but there can be complications.

Go to for more information on vaccines.

If you enjoyed this then check out: Bird Box