I’m a major advocate in suspending disbelief in order to enjoy a movie that bends the rules of reality for the sake of entertainment mainly because if you don’t, well, you’re going to dislike a great deal of movies. That said, there’s a limit to how much one can ignore for the sake of entertainment – especially when a film is aiming to portray itself as a science-fiction film that’s somewhat based in reality.
The Colony is a movie that begins with a solid premise: When global warming became too much, giant weather controlling machines were created in order to help balance the weather, until one day it began snowing and never stopped. So now the world is trapped in an ice age, and there are various colonies on the outskirts of major cities where people live underground in order to survive the cold. Colony Seven is the place where our hero Sam (Kevin Zegers) lives, alongside twenty or so others. The rules here are simple. If you show signs of illness, you’re placed in quarantine and if you don’t get better from there you’re brought topside and given the choice of taking a walk or taking a bullet.
Early on a distress call is received from a nearby colony, and Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) – the leader of Colony Seven – decides to check it out. Sam and Graydon (Atticus Dean Mitchell), another young colonist, volunteer to go with him and this is where the suspension of disbelief kicks in but quickly becomes too much. For instance, the three team members head outside on this arduous journey with minimal supplies and very little protective gear. That’s somewhat understandable, as the consensus may have been that the audience would want to see the characters faces during these moments; however, if there’s zero sunshine (to the point where Sam actually says it’s been so long that he forgets what it even feels like) then odds are your skin would freeze pretty fast with how cold it would be out there.
Which brings me to my next point: how is there anywhere that isn’t covered in boatloads of snow? At one point during their journey, the trio cross over a bridge that’s falling apart. The thing is, the bridge looks like it was just shoveled a few minutes earlier. For anyone who lives in a place where it snows, you know that if it starts to snow you usually go out and shovel after a few hours so that when you have to shovel again a few hours after that, it’s not nearly impossible to do so due to the amount out there. So how is it possible after 10-15 straight years of snowing that this bridge is completely clear?
At this point I tried to stop thinking like that, as the movie was about 25 minutes or so in and I thought I’d better give it benefit of the doubt and ignore that aspect of it – but I’ll be damned if they were going to make it that easy. When the trio arrive at Colony Five there’s a giant pool of blood outside the entrance, which causes Graydon to suggest they don’t go inside, as a pool of blood is never a good sign. While this is supposed to be an eerie moment in the film, all I could think about was how in the hell there was a pool of blood outside the door when it hasn’t stopped snowing. And during their trip they stopped in a downed rescue helicopter for the night and when they checked back in to home base, they said they were staying at the helicopter and would continue on in the morning. So while it never stops snowing, they’re able to use this downed helicopter as a landmark that everyone knows?
By this point, I tried to throw weather out of the equation – even though it’s the primary reason everything is happening – and decided to just see what happened once they went inside Colony Five. Things pick up ever so briefly, as the trio discover that everyone inside has been murdered by a pack of cannibals. After escaping back into the weather so cold that it destroyed the entire planet but not cold enough that it requires a scarf, the men begin the trek back to Colony Seven to report what they’d seen.
After spending another night in the helicopter on the way back, the men awaken to discover that the pack of cannibals is hot on their trail, you know, because they left one – and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to even attempting to enjoy this film on a purely entertainment level. It never stops snowing. It snows so much that there are only handfuls of people left in various colonies around the planet, and even those people are dying off quickly because rations are running out. But even with it snowing that much, and the wind constantly blowing, these footprints remained for hours and hours. And on top of that, they probably should’ve been wearing snowshoes.
The Colony is an example of lazy writing, poor direction and bad overall execution. I’m not sure how they were able to get both Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton on board because the amount of things that need to be ignored in order to enjoy the film are just so abundant that it’s hard to believe nobody saw them in the script stages. Co-writer/director Jeff Renfroe stated that when he first read the script it felt like an ensemble piece and he wanted a single hero to focus on, which ended up being Sam. The problem is, Sam isn’t all that interesting (which is also due to the bland performance by Zegers) and the rest of the characters come off as one-dimensional and completely forgettable. So instead of getting to know anyone, we’re left with cliché-ridden, one note characters that the audience has absolutely zero emotional connection with.
Another issue is the pacing, as there’s no real sense of reward for sticking it out for the entire 90-minute runtime. The final “battle” is so beyond sloppy and anticlimactic that it feels like it was thrown together on the fly. The entire third act feels incredibly rushed and falls completely flat – which I suppose shouldn’t have shocked me considering how the first 70 minutes were put together.
When it all comes down to it, The Colony would have been better off as an invasion film, where these cannibals stumble across this den of survivors and try to break their way in and take them all out. While that’s not overly original, nobody ever said it has to be – it just has to be entertaining. This way Briggs could’ve been a more hands on leader, and even if the hero torch was passed to Sam midway, we’d have gotten to know them all on their home turf and would likely care a bit more about everyone inside; think along the lines of a post-apocalyptic 30 Days of Night. Instead we got a 25 minute road trip across an icy wasteland where it snows 24/7 – even though the snow never seems to hit the ground or cover anything – and a remarkably dull final act.
The Blu-ray transfer for the film looks good, with the atmosphere underground nicely contrasting the blinding whites topside. The computerized visuals added into the film in post-production are some of the only saving graces to be found, as the movie looks quite nice most of the time. The audio also comes through nicely, in both the dialogue and overall sound mixes.
Behind-the-Scenes – This featurette comes in at just under 10 minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about the film, shooting, the use of a green screen and pre-production. Both Fishbourne and Paxton talk about the movie here, but it’s still a mystery – aside from the almighty dollar – why they signed on.
The Colony is a misfire on almost every level. From the multiple written drafts, to pre-production to production, someone should have stopped and said, “Wait a minute, this doesn’t really make sense…” and then maybe there’d be something that could have been salvaged. As it is, The Colony is a waste of two strong actors and your 90 minutes.
Entertainment One and Sierra Pictures Present The Colony. Directed by: Jeff Renfroe. Written by: Patrick Tarr, Pascal Trotter, Jeff Renfroe, Svet Rouskov. Starring: Laurence Fishbourne, Bill Paxton, Kevin Zegers. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released: August 27, 2013.
Tags: Bill Paxton, Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne