What’s it About?
Forced underground by the next ice age, a struggling outpost of survivors must fight to preserve humanity against a threat even more savage than nature.
Directed by Jeff Renfroe
“Hell Froze Over”
“Civic Duty” Director Jeff Renfroe’s “The Colony” is an aggravating and indecisive post apocalyptic sci fi thriller set in 2045. Set Dresser and Writer Patrick Tarr provides an interesting story about the icy, bleak and desperate future of mankind. He establishes “The Colony” with a swift and compelling premise but in Renfroe’s hands, the movie, which starts off with a decent prelusive set up, derails terribly halfway through.
Too bad too because even with the gruffy and worn Bill Paxton (A Simple Plan) as Mason, Kevin Zegers (Titanic: Blood and Steel, Dawn of the Dead) as the young Sam and the ever watchable Laurence Fishburne (Apocalypse Now) as Briggs, the film still falters when the follow up to the thrilling introductory drama turns into a different picture all together.
I don’t mind an occasional tonal shift but the movie seems to revert to a somewhat anemic sci fi B movie that, well, feels more like a Z movie which resembles films the likes of which Netflix vomits out every month on their streaming menu with nauseating frequency. The movie takes place in the near future where man is forced to live under the ice in fallout shelters and bunkers (Some scenes were shot in NORAD in Canada) after climate machines they built begin to break down and when “It began to snow and never stopped” it forces humankind to face the next Ice Age under very drastic and violent conditions. Mason, Sam and Briggs, their leader, are the heads of this self contained “Colony 7” (They seem to be trying to thrive with seeds, animals, plants and Oxygen).
Mason and Briggs are immediately at odds when Mason takes an infected member topside to be shot because it seems anyone who is sick has got to be either shot to death or allowed to walk without protection into the subzero tundra that lies above them. Briggs finds out from the young and idealistic, Sam (Zegers) that Mason did not give the member a choice but rather shot him down. We then get the obligatory to and fro between them that is quite dramatic and well performed by the stars.
Suffice it to say by then I am interested in how this may all pan out. Renfroe then proceeds in keeping the movie flowing successfully when a radio operator named Cooper (Michael Mando of the way better “Orphan Black”) receives a distress call from “Colony 5” which is their sister colony and when more arguing ensues, a young girl, Kai (Charlotte Sullivan) remind the men that they made an oath to help “Colony 5” and that they are responsible for helping them if they need it despite the dangers of venturing outdoors into the deadly and cold weather.
Briggs musters his troops and Sam and one other young man named Graydon, who has a concerned Father in The Colony, decide to go and find out what has happened to “Colony 5.” They head out and Renfroe’s film, I must admit, is good looking with some genuinely modest CGI FX wide-shots of snowed over cities, iced up bridges and windy landscapes. The trio charges along until they hole up in a downed and abandoned helicopter where they take shelter.
Tarr’s prompt and slick dialog (though a bit cliched) is put forth with heavy aplomb by Fishburne who here, unlike his very out of place story arc in “Predators,” is steady, strong and very genuine. Zegers who emotes with his large blue eyes is appealing as always when he is the sympathetic character. Zegers is used well when he plays the nice guy and here, like in Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead,” is kind, gentle and understanding. The film becomes a trial by fire that changes Sam. Or so it seems.
Unfortunately, like I stated earlier, the films derails. And it happens shortly after the group gets to “Colony 5.” When they get there, they find a sole person, named Leyland who proceeds to show them a video recording of a group of scientists that have been able to make a climate machine to work and keep back the snow. They also need seeds to help grow food with the new thawed soil. Leyland, though, knows that the trio is screwed.
There are others there that had followed an earlier expedition back to The Colony. And these new peeps are not the nicest people. They seem to be kind of, well, hungry and crazed. The trio leave Leyland behind and find a dark boiler room (or what appears to be) with some nasties actually chopping limbs off of the remaining colonists and proceeding to eat them alive. Renfroe handles the action scenes ok, I suppose, but I expected this smart but not completely intelligent movie to remain a bit absorbing. too bad it doesn’t.
Even with Fishburne flexing out his long slumbering action chops, the movie just turns into a “Ghosts of Mars” type of mindless violence and absurdity. It becomes the “Feral Cannibal Freaks vs Us” type of flotsam. Don’t get me wrong, it worked in “GOM” (to an extent) but here Renfroe hints at something that he can’t eventually fulfill. There are gunshots, stabbings, explosions, chases, close calls, dudes yelling like animals and of course there is a leader dude that runs around with long, sharp and filed teeth ala “30 Days of Night.” Of course there is, kiddies.
“The Colony” manages to minimally entertain us somehow when the guys make a break for it but it is a fleeting. When Sam, without Briggs and Braydon, makes it back to The Colony it is more of the same. Running, slicing, screaming, gunshots, impalements and such. I mean it’s all good from the mindless violence angle but the movie just seemed to do a “Mr Hyde” and tried to become a bigger beast and we have seen it all before.
It started off ok and it had a good B movie feel but it becomes predictable and even hokey when, say, Mason is left behind to be “The Martyr” much like his Hicks and the way Vasquez was in Cameron’s supremely superior film “Aliens.” The film is indeed fast and well shot by Pierre Gill (Art of War, The Borgias) with some nice music by Jeff Danna (The Boondock Saints) but it it an all together mediocre movie with decent production values. It could have been much more.
What really killed it for me was the tacked on, melodramatic ending which feels like the middle of a last act. If the movie by then had taken a nose dive then the ending made it take a leap off the summit of K2. And why were Fishburne (who is pretty wasted in this) and Paxton (and Zegers in a lesser degree) even in this? Did they lose a bet? Were they given half of a script when they accepted it then promised that the rest will “be good?” I dunno. “The Colony” has some nice looking FX and solid actors with a good set up that is squandered by the second half’s amatuerish imbecility. Check it out as a rental or if Netflix makes it available then give it a watch there. Do not buy!