Greetings from the edge!
This time we’ll be taking a look at The Colony, a 2013 film in the post apocalyptic/survival horror genre, with our particular flavor of Armageddon being a man-made ice age in this case. Weather alteration towers made to combat global climate change do slightly too good a job of it and trigger a worldwide cool down. In the movies own words, “It began to snow… and never stopped.” Starring Laurence Fishburne as Briggs the leader of the titular colony, Charlotte Sullivan as Kai his second in command, Bill Paxton as Mason the sheriff and enforcer of the colony, and Kevin Zegers as Sam our main view into this frozen world… also the guy who takes care of the bunnies. Well, somebody has to!
We open with an aerial shot of a colony, zooming down a smokestack into the dark underworld that is all that remains of human life in this frozen wasteland. We see two characters running from some unseen danger and pounding on a locked door before we zoom out and move to Colony 7, home of our protagonists. Sam (Kevin Zegers) is working outdoors on a transmitter when Mason (Bill Paxton) drags a coughing colonist out into the snow and executes him, seemingly because it is against the colony’s rules to prevent the spread of a dangerous flu through the community.
Sam tells Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) about Mason’s unlawful act, but before anything can be done, a distress call is received from Colony 5 and is cut off before the nature of the emergency can be explained. Sam makes his way through Colony 7 and we see this tiny outpost of humanity is slowly dying all around them. Animals failing to thrive, a tiny garden station under grow lights, and decrepit electronics patched and re-patched barely clinging to functionality.
Soon Briggs and Sam must leave to assist Colony 5, leaving behind them a community in turmoil and issues unresolved. Now they must make their way through this new alien world to discover why Colony 5 has suddenly stopped communicating and what threat it may offer for their own little world.
The effects in The Colony are top notch and, thankfully, not overdone. The color contrast between the warm, dank oranges and reds of the colonies plays nicely with the bitter whites and blues of the frozen world. The gore effects are mostly well done and not for the squeamish, highlighting a few well done standing and running battles.
The sets are nicely shabby and feel like people have been living shoulder to shoulder and have worn down both the shine and the rough edges of their world. There is contrast between Colony 7 and 5, 5 feeling more industrial, more like a converted factory, while 7 seems to have been based more on a scientific research station with more levels and a feeling that it was planned as a place for people to survive in.
I so wanted to like The Colony and it does have some good moments… and I hate to say it, but the first half of the movie has at least 75% of the good scenes. I don’t want to get into too many spoilers, but after the death of one of the main cast, it just seems to lose most of its steam and to become strangely formulaic. The Colony has bright spots, but the ending squanders most, if not all, of the goodwill that its stars manage to build up over the first half of the film.
I did enjoy most of the characters and there are some fun performances by some honestly good actors. Little touches brighten The Colony and keep it from being just run of the mill, but I can’t help but feel it could have been so much more.
I’m conflicted about The Colony. I had some fun and enjoyed both the setting and the stars and, compared to the typical movies that make their way to the Edge, it’s practically Shakespeare, but you won’t find much substance here. If, like me, you’re a fan of the post-apocalypse genre, you’ll find some mindless fun in The Colony, but that’s about it. I hate to say it, but at the end of the day, The Colony feels like the poor cousin of Snowpiercer, a far and away better movie. If you’ve seen Snowpiercer and you want something in a similar vein, give The Colony a try, and if you haven’t seen Snowpiercer, jeez, go see it now. Really, if you’re interested by the any of the ideas of the The Colony at all, there is nothing it does that Snowpiercer doesn’t do faster, harder, and frankly, stranger… in a good way. After you’ve watched that and you want a little more apocalyptic fun, then come back and give The Colony a try, maybe with a few friends and some frosty beverages.
Nerdy Speculation Corner: Warning, may contain both spoilers and dangerous amounts of geekery!
Okay, let’s talk a little about the cop-out ending. There is nothing wrong with someone discovering a way to manipulate the weather control stations to create safe zones in the ice age ( although it makes me wonder why it took so long… and how someone managed to stumble across it so many years later ). There is nothing with Colony 7 having the seeds that the warm zone needs, but the idea that grabbing half a backpack of seemingly random seeds and setting off into the frozen wilderness without either food or equipment is more like certain death than anything else. It felt like the film just got tired and decided to stop there rather than do a little more work and have a proper ending. I don’t know… if you have any opinions let me know in the comments, I’m interested in what other viewers thought of the ending.
Also, I know cannibalism is one of the main tropes of the survival horror/post-apocalypse genre. However I can’t help but think that all the roaming, man-eating savages being, at best, monosyllabic was a huge waste. Getting into the heads of a society of aggressive exo-cannibals would have added some much needed depth to The Colony.
Join us again next time when I’ll be taking a side trip to the land of the rising sun to indulge my love of Japanese cinema. Whether it’s creeping horror, bold samurai, wacky comedy, or the strange and beautiful slice of life movies that entrance me so, we’ll be taking a look from the Edge.