Film Review: The Colony

The Colony — Film Poster
The Colony — Film Poster

Film Review: The Colony. The Colony is a science-fiction movie set in the reasonably near future—let’s say less than 40 years, although we’re not really given enough information to decide exactly how near.

The poster (as shown) depicts a group of people in a winter or snowbound situation headed for a frozen bridge, with some futuristic machinery on the bridge’s far side, and in the background is what appears to be a city of frozen skyscrapers; the words “The Colony” encapsulate a view of the red-lit faces of the movie’s stars apparently staring at something in horror. Not bad for a start, eh? Since we know our world is undergoing global warming, we have something to mull over even before the movie starts.

By the way, I might be giving away some minor spoilers in this review, but such is the nature of our chosen field that it’s impossible to say anything about a science fiction movie without giving something away. I just try—except if I absolutely hate a movie—to give away the ending or major plot points that should remain hidden. (For example, if I were to review the move Pain and Gain—with Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Tony Shalhoub et al.—I’d give away the fact that the movie sucks big rocks and tell you to stay the hell away! But I digress.)

Almost as soon as The Colony starts, you find out that the protagonist, Sam (played by Kevin Zegers, who’s been in the TV series “Titanic: Blood & Steel,” as well as “Gossip Girl” and a few other things) is going to give you the standard voice-over that all people who don’t know a damn thing about science fiction think a “sci-fi” movie’s got to have because there’s no other way to explain all that weird stuff to us regular people. (Never mind that SF writers have been doing a great job without the use of “expository lumps” for many years, and that people who go to these movies are usually smart enough to get a good many things from context. Which is a better way to do it.) So we learn that global warming got so bad that humanity constructed these big weather towers to control the temperature and—what happened is rather glossed over, but we sort of gather the towers either ran out of fuel or stopped working—one day it “just started to snow and never quit.” So after most of humanity died of starvation, lack of fuel, diseases and other such things, what was left retreated into these colonies to live underground. This colony, Colony 7, is one of the colonies that’s been keeping animals and plants alive, and collecting seeds for when the planet will be fit to repopulate. The colonies have kept in touch somewhat through radio.

But there’s a problem: people are getting colds and the flu and other such stuff and thereby endangering the rest of the colony, so after they’ve been isolated for a few days to see if they recover—when they start coughing and sneezing—they’re tested to see if they have something serious and when they do… well, they get a choice. Either take “the long walk” in the snow, or get a bullet to the head. And this colony has another problem—they’re down to about 40 or 50 people, and the head of security—one Mason, who used to be in the military with the colony’s leader Briggs (Mason played by Bill Paxton; Briggs by Laurence Fishburne)—is taking away their choice and just shooting people out of hand when they get sick. Another problem is that one of the other colonies, Colony 5, sent some kind of SOS, not saying what the problem was, then went silent. No radio traffic at all.

The Colony photo 2 A defunct weather station
The Colony — A defunct weather station

So although Mason is exceeding his authority, and there’s clearly insurrection in the ranks, Briggs decides to lead a search party to find out what’s going on in Colony 5. There’s a young woman, Kai (played by Charlotte Sullivan, who’s been in TV series like “Blue Bloods” and “Rookie Blue”), who has found a video transmission from someone claiming to have resurrected one of the weather towers, and sent pictures of clear, sunny skies; Briggs leaves her in charge of the colony—despite Mason’s objections—and heads off into the weather to find out what’s up with Colony 5, accompanied by Sam and a young volunteer, Graydon (Atticus Mitchell), over the objections of his parents. And right there my issues with this movie shift into a higher gear. A seasoned military leader gives command of his colony to a young woman when there’s clearly an issue with his leadership and someone who might oh, I dunno, knock her off and assume command of the colony? This makes no sense.

Also, seeing that “it has never stopped snowing” in something like 30-40 years, and the wind has been blowing, making it well below freezing outside, nobody—I mean nobody—uses any kind of face covering outside! Hey, folks, I lived in Edmonton, Alberta for 10 years and I know that -30 or -40 degree weather (when you get down to those temperatures, it’s approximately the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius) makes it hard to breathe outside. Which is why a lot of people put scarves over their noses and mouths. But anyway, the three tread over a frozen bridge with big holes in the pavement and then spend an evening in a frozen helicopter, where they’re out of the wind. By now we’re not really even paying attention to the logical or scientific flaws in the movie except to wonder what they’re gonna mess up next.

As you have probably figured out by now, I wasn’t overly impressed with the film. I had expected a half-decent SF movie, and what I got was maybe a quarter decent. Good stars—Fishburne, Paxton and all the rest do what they can with the script, but the script is half-baked at best. The visuals are good unless you really think about what they’ve told you—like how long it’s been snowing and what really happened—and the sets convey a good, claustrophobic sense of what it would be like living underground with little or no chance to see the sky. The movie was filmed at a defunct NORAD installation in Thunder Bay, Ontario, so they had access to miles of tunnels; much of the outside was dressed up mainly by CGI. Here, the CGI did actually serve the picture, a frequent complaint of mine—so I have no complaint with it.

The Colony Photo 3, Briggs and Sam escaping from Colony 5
Briggs and Sam escaping from Colony 5

What Briggs, Sam and Graydon found at Colony 5 you will already know some of, if you’ve seen the previews. I won’t say much about it except to tell you that even that makes no sense at all given the scenarios the filmmakers set up. If you want a movie you don’t have to think about—heck, you can’t really think about this one—then this will fit the bill and give you an hour and a half of fairly mindless entertainment. The film kind of goes off in all directions without working any of them out properly, so just don’t think too deeply about anything in this movie, or you’ll wind up disappointed. I was.

As usual, I await your comments and/or brickbats with bated breath. Coming up, fanzine reviews, book reviews, movie reviews and so on. Until next time, enjoy the weather, wherever you live!

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