The Day when The Divide found The Colony --
A film summary that rings very true. If you've previously seen the two aforementioned films from 2011, The Divide and The Day, you will immediately know what to expect from The Colony, as it bares a very strong resemblance to both. Looking at director Jeff Renfroe, a very capable and talented director, who I know from his intriguing feature film debut One Point O in 2004, which was followed by the more widely known Civic Duty about two years later -- also well received. After a long period out of the spotlight, I was delighted to see his name attached to The Colony, a film with a seemingly sufficient budget of $16 million, and an experienced, capable cast. For this film, the question on my mind wasn't will it be good, more a question of will it be great. I love these type of genre blends, the elements of overcoming, not just nature, but humanity, in order to survive extinction. When you've seen as many of these films as I, you come to expect familiar elements, and a plot that is far from new. For me, the success of this film will undoubtedly depend on its presentation, acting and effects, when all are done brilliantly, the plot originality can be somewhat sacrificed. As we have seen in WWZ, even with an incredible budget and much faster adversaries, in the end, it still relies on the same old traditional, formulaic structure. It's us versus them against the elements.
The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic era, where the remainder of Earth's inhabitants have been driven underground due to sustained sub-zero temperatures. The surface has become a frozen wasteland, void of life. Out of the few that did survive, many died due to overcrowding, starvation and sickness. The film revolves around an underground colony of survivors whose numbers are dwindling because of rampant flu, consisting of roughly forty people responsible for growing food and storing seeds, in hopes that the surface will again, someday, be capable of growing crops. It's a last ditch effort to preserve humanity against all odds, some of which they are not prepared to face, a new evil, far more dangerous than the frozen surface or flu.
The leader of colony seven is Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) , who, after receiving a distress call from colony five, picks one member out of the group, Sam (Kevin Zegers) to accompany he and another member, Graydon (Atticus Dean Mitchell), volunteers to go along. What they find is not at all what they expected. Its inhabitants, decimated, by a rogue group and as the film swiftly shifts into higher gear, it's no longer clear who, if anyone, will be able to survive what is coming.
The first thing that many may be quick to criticize isn't the familiar plot, but the extended period of time it takes to inject any sort of excitement or fear into the viewer. It's roughly forty minutes on, before the pace begins to roar. Personally, I didn't mind the slow crawl in the films beginning, it successfully laid down a solid foundation for the second half to launch from. There was some lack of explanation as to how exactly humanity ended up in the spot that they are in. I believe it's no different than every other post-apocalyptic film, in the fact that you can either focus on the before or the after. To detail both realistically, would be an extremely hard task to overcome, and detailing both inside of ninety minutes would be a first for my eyes. There were some solid performances given by the cast, and the cinematography was superb, having an actual decommissioned NORAD base, allowed a realistic "on location" set, making for an absolutely perfect backdrop.
There are the usual amount of plot holes for a film of this genre, but none were distracting enough to detract from the story. It was a cool, entertaining film, that met my initial expectations. The end wasn't very reassuring, I would have preferred something less in the grey area. Although, as a whole, it was light years ahead of other recent, more expansive films, like After Earth, for example, but nonetheless, I predict an early VOD direct to disc, type of release. It's surely a good rental pick for fans of the genre, and not a bad choice to check out, if it does happen to make it to a theater near you.
Review by Jim Davis, special to Influx Magazine
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