The Colony | Review
They Are What They Are: Renfroe’s Derivative Ice Age
Indie filmmaker Jeff Renfroe returns to Canada for his latest effort, a sci-fi actioneer, The Colony, which makes a serious attempt at thrilling us despite its cobbled together scenario that will put you in mind of plenty classic genre titles concerning post-apocalyptic environmental weather changes or humans trapped in wintry tundra. While it certainly never transcends its B movie trappings, a valiant attempt by its two lead performers helps distract from some of the larger faults and obvious use of distracting CGI.
A new Ice Age has forced mankind underground, the earth’s population severely reduced to a finite amount of humans living together in small colonies, subsisting on plants and animals they’ve been able to cultivate with themselves under the earth. Right before a never-ending blizzard began, mankind had developed a series of towers designed to reverse the dire weather patterns, their skeletal remains still reaching into the wintry heavens. Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) is the leader of Colony 7, and the omniscient narration of Sam (Kevin Zegers), fills us in on the details as we witness the cruel Mason (Bill Paxton), kill a sick member of the colony.
The common cold is strong enough to eradicate their dwindling population, so those developing signs and symptoms are quarantined, then, more often than not, killed or forced to walk off into the tundra to die. Sam’s girlfriend, Kai (Charlotte Sullivan), who monitors the earth’s unchanging weather patterns on the colony’s advanced equipment systems, alerts Briggs that they’ve lost contact with neighboring Colony 5, with whom they’ve made a pact to look out for. At a town hall meeting, Briggs collects two volunteers to trek out to Colony 5, leaving his own people behind in dubious safety. Of course, upon reaching their neighboring underground complex, it seems that it has been abandoned after a possible massacre…and maybe something else has stayed behind.
Even upon reading a summary, swirls of familiar titles should be swirling in your head, and compared to a host of minor apocalyptic sci-fi fare, The Colony isn’t half bad, and thankfully avoids depending on comedy and hysterical third act revelations (like 2011’s The Book of Eli). However, for a group of people spending years living underground, where observations like “you know you’re screwed when even the rabbits won’t f**ck,” inform our understanding of their world, everyone looks resoundingly robust, the worst offender being the eyelined and stylized Charlotte Sullivan. And a wardrobe that seems lifted off the racks of The North Face doesn’t help, either. Fishburne and Zegers, though, are surprisingly watchable in roles that could have easily been phoned in. As the other major cast member, Bill Paxton attempts to be menacing but comes off as a watered down Xerox of his memorable supporting turn in Aliens (1986).
Reportedly the first film shot in Ontario’s decommissioned N.O.R.A.D. (North American Aerospace Defense Command Base), interior sequences of The Colony are resoundingly claustrophobic and effective. It’s the wintry weather outside that looks distractingly computer generated. Rushing toward a predictable finale, usual details get squabbled about uneasily (such as Kai’s overlooking of a weather related phenomenon supposedly in effect for some time that Sam is able to locate in seconds) but Renfroe milks his escape and pursuit scenario for all the tension its worth. For a film that boringly opens on two strangers running terrified through a tunnel from some unknown enemy, The Colony at least takes itself seriously, even if it is a bit too familiar to be memorable.