Reel Review: The Colony

Shawn McCormick / April 15, 2013 - 3:01pm

So far in 2013, eOne Films has released several successful movies, including the romantic film “Safe Haven” as well as the action packed films “The Last Stand” and “Snitch.” Coming out later this year from eOne Films are highly anticipated films “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “Catching Fire” and “Now You See Me.” A film from eOne Films that may fly under the radar is an action-thriller from American director Jeff Renfroe titled “The Colony.” Renfroe is a relatively unknown director, but he did co-write the screenplay for the movie, using his vision for the movie to guide it down the right path. Similar to the director, the film stars relative unknown Kevin Zegers (“Wrong Turn”), but has a veteran ensemble cast featuring two actors who have been playing various roles since the 1970s in Laurence Fishburne  (“The Matrix” Trilogy) and Bill Paxton (“Titanic”).

“The Colony” takes place in a dystopian future where malfunctioning weather stations have brought on the next ice age. Due to harsh weather conditions, survivors are forced to live underground in hopes to preserve humanity and survive at all costs.

There were a few things in “The Colony” that stood out to give it a sense of realism. First of all, the movie was filmed in North Bay, Ontario at the North American Aerospace Defense Command Base. Filming in this area made the set look like a war bunker where people would seek refuge in a crisis.  The design of the outdoor sets was done particularly well, with snow covering the land up to the top of buildings and light posts. The colonists also took measures to ensure they would have enough food to survive, breeding animals and keeping seeds underground. Filmmakers likely got this idea from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which is housed about 1300 KM from the North Pole. The realistic ideas gave the plot more depth and showed that the writers wanted to focus on the survival aspect of the film.

****POTENTIAL SPOILERS****

Surviving is everything in “The Colony,” as people have to stave off illness, hunger, and the elements in order to live in the newest ice age.  Sickness runs rampant in colony seven where Briggs (Fishburne), Mason (Paxton), and Sam (Zegers) all reside. Due to the cold weather and lack of food, everyone’s immune system is constantly attacked and if you show symptoms of an illness you are tested. If the test is positive, a choice is given to either take a bullet to the head, or walk away from the colony. There would be no chance of survival if they choose to walk away, however it gives them a glimpse of hope that they may survive, which adds a layer of depth to the idea that without hope of survival that you are already dead.

A team from colony seven including Briggs and Sam are sent to investigate a distress signal from colony five. Upon their arrival to the colony, there is a pile of blood at the entrance and they realize something horrible has happened. Once inside, they encounter a group of cannibals that chase them back to the surface. The people from colony seven now must survive the onslaught from the cannibals. The introduction of the cannibals adds another antagonistic element to the film, and pushes the pace of the movie. Adding the cannibals also adds a sense of realism and to the survival portion of the plot, showing that people can lose themselves and turn against each other, and even go as far as to eating one another in order to survive.

Each main character in the film has a desire for something more, which is only natural when dealing with a dystopian plot. Briggs is the leader of colony seven who wants more for his people. Mason knew Briggs before the ice age, and served with Briggs in the military, yet feels like his power within the group is slipping to Sam. Paxton does a good job in portraying Mason as the x-factor of the movie, as he keeps the audience guessing on what side he is on, and how far he is willing to go to be a leader of the colony. Sam wants everyone to be safe and live through these dark times; going as far as to keep someone’s illness a secret even if it may endanger the whole group. Kai, (Charlotte Sullivan) is continuously looking through a thermal scanner, hoping that someone has found a way to reverse the effects of the weather stations. With each character wanting something different it makes the plot more interesting, and keeps the audience guessing as to what may happen next and what may happen at the end of the film.

“The Colony” is a good thriller, with some innovative kills, however it is similar to another thriller, “30 Days of Night” (2007). In that film, an Alaskan town is dark for a month and the people staying there must do their best to survive. The difference between the two movies is that “The Colony” deals with cannibals, while the characters in “30 Days of Night” must stave off bloodthirsty vampires. The sets are very similar, and both plots deal with survival, which takes away from this movie.

Overall, “The Colony” is a quality film that has a good build to the action scenes. The duo of Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton push the plot of the movie along nicely, while Kevin Zegers handles the spotlight well in one of his first starring roles. The focus of a “survival of the fittest” mentality is intriguing, and the filmmakers developed strong ideas to support it from different angles. The film’s similarity to “30 Days of Night” does hurt its originality and some plotlines, but it is not too similar to deem “The Colony” unwatchable.

I give “The Colony” 6 out of 10.

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