The post-apocalyptic action/horror genre has in recent years had a major new glut of titles. While the world continues to live in times of uncertainty, such films will always be relevant, as when done well, it can give hope that come the worst, there’ll still be ways of pulling through. The Colony is another movie in this vein and while it certainly doesn’t break new ground in terms of this fare it does make for a thrilling tale of survival against the odds.
In the near future, the planet is suffering an all-encompassing ice age, as attempts at climate control have gone disastrously wrong. Survivors still exist in a few isolated subterranean colonies, just about able to keep life going, not just for themselves but for animal and plant samples too. Tensions are brewing in colony 7 between leaders Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) and Mason (Bill Paxton) on the method of leadership, particularly in the prevention of any diseases. But an S.O.S. call from Colony 5 soon makes this irrelevant. Colony 5 has information that may guarantee the human race a future but has fallen prey to a threat that may soon consume colony 7 too.
This production, for a relatively low budget is a very slick affair. There’s a good early focus on the procedures of the colony’s operation, building a good believability in the premise. It keeps things relatively down to Earth for one of these films, presenting an apocalypse that’s a lot more thought out than quite a few others, especially with a few character’s testimony’s about living through the disaster. The snowbound environments give something different to look at that the usual ruined cityscapes in these sorts of films, and are well realised in CGI. In the colonies, the location filming is shot to maximise claustrophobia in the environments, building up a lot of tension in the central act as the fate of colony 5 is investigated.
Here’s one of the film’s problems though; there is an excellent build-up to the reveal of what exactly the danger the characters are facing is. However, when it is revealed you are expecting a bit more than what is on offer. It’s not exactly that imaginative, and at times it doesn’t seem to be as much of a threat as it should be. However, it’s still handled pretty well, with the exact origin given mystery. This might be for the best, since the film has been well grounded before then, so going too far with a monstrous threat would have broken the disbelief. The direction for them is pretty good to, with just a touch of shakey-cam filming to add to the tension, without making the action unwatchable.
Overall though, this film isn’t one to push the envelope that far, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means. The storyline itself won’t win too many points for originality, but it’s well put together, building to the climax well, properly laying out the stakes and making sure to introduce things like the area’s geography that’ll pay off later. The acting is strong all round, with everyone giving a good sense of the characters having a long history together. Laurence Fishburne definitely is the best presence here, giving a commander you can instantly understand why people follow, while not just being Morpheus in the Arctic. Bill Paxton is good, but his character is the standard one note “we’ve got to be tough gits to survive” character who always shows up in these movies, so he doesn’t get much to do. Main lead Kevin Zegers is likeable and believable in the role, and everyone else acquits themselves well, with a special nod to Julian Richings playing the sole survivor of colony 5.
The Colony isn’t one that’s going to revolutionise sci-fi/horror, but it’s a very solidly made thriller. It doesn’t do much that other films haven’t, but it still has a strong sense of its own identity; it feels a bit like some other films (The Thing, 28 Days Later) but it’s not a rip-off of them. It does what it does well, and delivers some excellent character moments, action and scares with a good sense of weight. This may be strictly B-movie rental fare, but for what it is it offers a very solid ride, so it comes recommended.