It’s not terribly original and it shows the signs of budgetary restrictions at many turns, but the Canadian post-apocalyptic action thriller The Colony certainly looks better and has a better cast and director than movies of this ilk usually have. It’s kind of like a film that was inspired by someone watching a double bill of John Carpenter’s The Thing and the Will Smith starring I Am Legend, but they fell asleep partway through the first film and woke up for the end of the second one. It’s oddly truncated in a lot of ways, but it’s perfectly passable matinee fodder.
In the distant future, the world has become engulfed by a never ending snow storm as the result of weather modification gone awry. Pockets of survivors have been dying out rapidly as supplies grow less plentiful and crops become harder to cultivate in their underground hideouts. Disease is a constant threat that could cause deadly consequences for the entire colony. One such outpost overseen by the straight laced and rational Riggs (Laurcence Fishburne) and the hot headed loose cannon Mason (Bill Paxton) receives an S.O.S. call from another nearby colony. Riggs and a kindly mechanic (Kevin Zegers) make their way across the treacherous tundra to find a ghost town and a powerful threat that will follow them back to their own doorstep.
The Colony has been manufactured to seem as commercial as it possibly can in every aspect of its production. The story is so similar that it almost comes with a level of comfort to it. There are some surprises along the way to be sure, but there seems to be only one of two very specific ways for the story to end. The effects are pretty top notch, and director Jeff Renfroe certainly knows how to mount some genuinely effective set pieces and fight sequences throughout the film. If anyone is elevating this material above and beyond a film that would have just gone straight to video, it’s Renfroe who constantly injects life into some material that’s so done to death that even reviewing it feels like a simple listing of plot points rather than any sort of real criticism for or against it.
As for the cast, they are good, but there are little surprises. Zegers adds a good amount of humanity to the production as the lead protagonist and audience surrogate, but everyone else has been hired to serve a very specific and exact purpose with little to no wiggle room. The film’s biggest names, Fishburne and Paxton, have been hired because these are the kinds of parts they could do in their sleep. Their performances here are better than that low bar, but they are carbon copies on exactly the kinds of strong leaders (in the case of Fishburne) and snivelling cowards with violent sides (for Paxton) that they have played several times before. It seems like they were told to do the bare minimum, and since the film around it seems to be working just fine, there isn’t much shame in that.
It all builds to an abrupt conclusion that raises more questions than it could ever possibly answer. Then again, there seems to be some wishful thinking that a follow up could arise. The biggest misstep for the film is thinking that it’s really memorable enough outside of its action sequences to generate that much interest. Again, it’s not bad, but it certainly isn’t great, and it’s passable in one of the worst kinds of ways. There just isn’t much to talk about. Sure, there’s a vague environmental message and some commentary on man’s inhumanity to man that’s as old as time itself, but sadly nothing really impactful happens within that framework. You would think people who have spent decades underground would be more excited to have their way of life threatened, but it feels at times like even they’ve seen this all before.