2013, R, 90 mins.
2013, R, 90 mins.
Laurence Fishburne as Briggs / Bill Paxton as Mason / Kevin Zegers as Sam
Directed by Jeff Renfroe / Written by Jeff Renfroe, Svet Rouskov, Patrick Tarr, and Pascal Trottier
THE COLONY is one of those science fiction thrillers with an initially nifty premise that, as the film progresses, never really knows how to properly harness or expand upon it.
That’s a shame, because the Canadian financed and produced
post-apocalyptic environmental survival flick looks pretty decent despite
its very meager budget and does manage to generate a palpable sense of
unease and dread in its opening sections.
Alas, the real issue with the film is that it seems like it harbors
regurgitated collection of ideas and concepts from oh-so-many past sci-fi
thrillers, so much so that a nagging and overpowering sensation of déjà
vu overcomes viewers. If
you’ve seen films like 28 DAYS LATER or THE THING, for example, then
there is no real tangible reason to sit through THE COLONY’s latter
half, which becomes a bit too perfunctory, stale, and by-the-numbers for
its own good.
the opening sections of the film do a good job of immersing us in its
hellish premise. It’s 2045
and a new worldwide ice age has riddled the planet.
The climate in the past was getting to horrendously warm extremes,
so humanity decided to build vast machines in order to control it.
This was, yes, a big mistake, and when the machines broke
down…the weather changed: it starting snowing…and never stopped...
turning Earth into Hoth-like planet. In order to escape the frigidly cold and inhospitable outdoor
conditions, humanity fled to large underground bunkers – or colonies –
to try to live out their collective lives as best as they could.
The main issue with this, though, is that battling starvation and,
more importantly, diseases and viruses becomes inordinately hard.
7 is lead by Morpheus himself, Lawrence Fishburne, who plays the
by-the-book and cautious minded Briggs, whereas his second in command is
the loose cannon that is Mason (Bill Paxton, wonderfully wild eyed and
deranged). One fateful day
Colony 7 receives what appears to be a distress call from another colony,
which subsequently forces them into action.
Briggs decides to venture out into the cold wastelands with a party
- Graydon (Atticus Dean Mitchell) and Sam (Kevin Zegers) - to make the
frosty journey to the colony to see what assistance they can lend them.
When the team arrives they find the colony blood spattered and
disserted, but they manage to make a startling discovery that may
hopefully mean salvation to everyone forced to live underground.
Oh, they also discover why the colony seems barren of people: a
horde of zombie-like cannibals have infiltrated it and have turned all
of its residents into tasty meals.
a positive, I liked the overall look of THE COLONY.
Directed with a relatively assured sense of visual innovation by
Jeff Renfroe, the film makes great use of decommissioned underground NORAD
bunkers in North Bay, Ontario to fully submerge us in the day-to-day
minutia of its characters. Renfroe
also creates a genuine sense of claustaphobia and tension in these
well-utilized interiors, and when not inside he employs some pretty
thankless CGI effects (again, on dime store level resources) to help further
sell the chilling vastness of a world overrun by miles upon miles of snow and
blizzards. Without question,
THE COLONY does, at times, look like it's a victim of its own lack of a
Hollywood sized budget, but for the most part it looks the part of a
consummately polished studio feature.
overall narrative seems to betray the film’s strong and crafty
production design by devolving into what’s essentially the umpteenth
variation of a zombie apocalypse horror film.
There was an option here, I think, for THE COLONY to really delve
deeply into its premise of a world ecologically ravaged by the mistakes
and sins of humanity, but the script never seems to have an affinity to be
more contemplative with its themes. Instead,
it seems more akin to hone in on manufactured and been-there, done-that
moments of gory mayhem as the few remaining Colony 7 survivalists must
wage a climatic battle against a battalion of human flesh-hungry and feral
cannibals. Renfroe does
manage to carve out some good action beats in the film’s artery spewing
and balls-to-the-wall violent third act, but there is little in it that we
have frankly not seen before…and in better films.
at least in my mind, are the poor man’s zombies in films like this, and
exist in THE COLONY for the purposes of mechanically engineering a threat
to the ragtag band of heroes that are already trying to eek their way
through life. The real regret
of the film is that it’s essentially a B-grade thriller with some
A-grade talent. Fishburne –
granted, with a fairly underwritten role – is kind of thanklessly
stalwart and credible in his role of the colony leader that strives to
hang on to his humanity in an inhuman set of dire circumstances.
And how crazy cool is it to see Paxton return to his performance
roots, so to speak, and play a deliriously unhinged hothead that likes to
callous shoot first and ask questions a distant second?
The other performers don’t fare quite so well: Kevin Zegers is
brings an earnest vulnerability and toughness to his role, but is rather
bland overall in terms of charisma. His
love interest is the colony’s de facto computer genius, played by the
fetchingly attractive Charlotte Sullivan, who perhaps looks a bit too
fetchingly attractive and made-up to be considered a believable member of a
race of people that have been living underground without resources for
I dunno. I didn’t come out of THE COLONY hating it. It just occupies that highly awkward middle ground for a film critic: It’s not an easily detestable work, nor is it a film that I can wholehearted recommend that you see. It has some good, lived-in performances by Fishburne and Paxton, has a fairly evocative and lingering visual sense (you often feel like a part of the wintery environments here), and seems to generate individual moments of disquieting terror early on. Unfortunately, THE COLONY is a prime example of what I like to call PWP film, or one that contains a premise without payoff. There’s some compelling ideas at the heart of this futuristic dystopian thriller, but when those razor sharp teethed and salivating cannibals show up…well…those ideas take a back seat to obligatory action sequences involving chases, fisticuffs, and bone bashing mayhem. There’s a smart film buried deep inside here…somewhere at least.