I’ve always believed that ‘End of the World’ flicks will never go out of style. Why is that? Well, there are probably all kinds of reasons. I tend to think that we, as a culture, have some deep-rooted fear for exactly how our world might come to an end. Maybe that’s why so many folks – regular Joes and politicians alike – are fascinated with the idea of Global Warming. Also, I tend to think that we, as a culture, are secretly fascinated by what would happen to us if all or most or our technology was stripped away. How would we react? How could we survive? What would we become? How many of us could make it? That’s the stuff of everyday nightmares – ones we never want to face but are all too happy to take in on the silver screen or behind the glow of a warm TV set only a few feet away.
That’s the stuff at the heart of THE COLONY. For all of its questions and/or maybe its minor moral posturing, this is a tale about survival when survival is only but a dream.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
In the near future, some catastrophe has blanked all of the Earth in a new ice age. The only human who survive are those who’ve taken to these remote underground outposts – scientific establishments that stockpiled seeds in the event of such devastation. Colony 7 – managed by Briggs (played by the reliable Laurence Fishburne) – receives a distress call from a nearby base; when it suddenly goes silent, he tasks Sam (Kevin Zegers) to go with him, out into the cold, to investigate. What they find might indeed spell doom for the remnants of mankind, assuming the maniacal Mason (Bill Paxton) doesn’t kill everyone first.
As is often the case with a one-off flick that’s only one part science fiction and two parts something else, the writing isn’t exactly what one would consider up-to-snuff. In fact, if you strip away the sci-fi elements (i.e. it’s the future, there’s been some man-made weather-related catastrophe, and science is all that can save us), then you’re left with what the film does best: escapism. This is a kinda/sorta race-against-the-elements feature: man’s struggle against extreme cold, man’s struggle against an unnamed virus, man’s struggle to eat & drink & (generally speaking) be merry. On that quotient, I thought THE COLONY worked quite nicely. Sure, you may have to dismiss some of its unanswered questions (i.e. what is this plague they speak of? What is the other plague – which apparently causes men to turn feral – they speak of? What happened to all that ‘global warming’ stuff?) mostly because a script by four people (yes, you read that right) feels a bit so routine it could’ve been penned by a computer program, but, so far as these 94 minutes are concerned, I give it a pass.
What works convincingly and consistently are the visuals provided by director Jeff Renfroe. He’s tapped into this bleak tomorrow and shackled it with all the grim, survival facets one would expect from a seasoned veteran of the big and small screen despite his fairly slim resume, and let me assure you this isn’t a world you’d want to visit much less be forced to survive in. It’s lonely. It’s cold. It’s entirely hopeless. Also with no soil, little sunlight, and a constant snowfall, growing food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn’t an easy task; it’s a constant battle, and Renfroe admirably captures it all – even the sprawling, snow-covered landscapes – with an eerie claustrophia sci-fi fans generally embrace. Kudos to him and the production department.
As for the performances? Well, when you’re shackled with a script that feels almost obligatory, then the best some talent can do is phone in the obligatory emotions. Still, the impressive presence of Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, and even a young Kevin Zegers helps elevate the material a few notches above the predictability of the situations; suffice it to say, I would like to see what the same could’ve done with some material with more meat on its bones … but this is the Apocalypse, after all, so meat was hard to come by.
THE COLONY (2013) is produced by RLJ Entertainment, Sierra Pictures, Alcina Pictures, Item 7, Mad Samurai Productions, and 120dB Films. DVD distribution is being handled by RLJ Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, the picture looks and sounds very impressive, though I’ll admit I had some trouble hearing Mr. Fishburne as he mumbled (coldly) through some of his early speeches. For those inclined to want to know more, there are two special features – some brief behind-the-scenes stuff along with interviews with the cast and crew – that amount to a nice extra but (again) not much of a meal. I would’ve liked to have seen more on the film’s effects, but maybe that’s just me.
RECOMMENDED. I realize that, in some respects, I may be the ‘lone wolf’ ‘round these parts actually giving THE COLONY an endorsement, and, to some degree, that’s quite possibly because in my experience I know you can do far worse than experience these 94 minutes. Sure, the science of this sci-fi may not make much sense, but, at its core, the film is much closer to an apocalyptic suspense film than anything else. In that regard, it kept my interest fine enough for entertainment purposes, and that’s mostly why I’d recommend it especially to folks who enjoy even a respectable dose of admittedly light science fiction.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJ Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of THE COLONY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.