Perhaps there is a 13-year-old boy somewhere who thinks the words post-apocalyptic thriller have a startling novelty to them. This culturally deprived adolescent may find “The Colony” a marvel of jaw-dropping innovation and heart-pumping excitement, whether he lives in remote Finland or under a bridge in Atlanta. For the rest of movie-going viewers who have seen countless trips to the other side of civilization’s demise by now, the film is more likely to taste like a dish that is reheated far too many times.
The film, a mash-up of basic post-apocalyptic sci-fi and zombie-movie tropes, can boast a couple of solid performances by veteran actors and is technically well-executed. Its numerous wide-angle shots of terrified people (or their grotesque pursuers) dashing pell-mell down dark underground passageways are beautifully photographed. The problem is that the filmmakers’ objection to any hint of storytelling uniqueness means that “The Colony” leaves an almost stupefying sense of overly done familiarity.
It doesn’t really matter what caused Earth’s civilization to crumble like a botched cake, as it does in most films of its ilk. It’s gone, that’s all. The planet’s surface is an icy waste in 2045, and the only people left alive are cowering and shivering in underground colonies. A draconian regime is in place in Colony 7. Because some illnesses are fatal, anyone who becomes ill is quarantined. If they do not recover, they are given the option of being shot or taking a long final hike through the colony’s Siberian-like surroundings.
Even that harsh order is crumbling due to the hysteria and growling wrath of the colony’s sergeant-at-arms, Mason (Bill Paxton). He has begun to decide when executions are necessary on his own. The film starts with him gunning down a helpless sufferer, much like one of the nastier Nazis in “Schindler’s List.” The primary purpose of this character is, of course, to provide the film with a cheap source of bloody mayhem from the start. Never mind that his actions make the story’s main action even more inconceivable than it would have been without him.
Despite Mason’s psychotic tendencies, Colony 7 is primarily ruled by Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), a wise and tenacious commander of the type seen in every war film since the dawn of time. One day, a distress signal is received from Colony 5, which appears to be in trouble but does not elaborate. Briggs mulls it over and decides that a rescue mission is necessary.
This is, of course, the film’s “yeah sure,” also known as an eye-rolling moment. Sure, the colony’s considerate father figure would leave his frightened charges in the care of his bloodthirsty deputy and stroll into the snowy wastelands on an almost undoubtedly suicidal mercy mission. Right. Countless teenage virgins have followed this logic and wandered into dark, infested rooms without turning on the light.
Briggs, in any case, sets out with two companions. Sam (Kevin Zegers) is the romantic lead in the film. You can tell because he’s young, attractive, and has a girlfriend (Charlotte Sullivan). The other one, Graydon (Atticus Mitchell), is young, cute, and appears to have no girlfriend, which means he’s probably a virgin, which means he’ll be snuffed as soon as the snuffing begins.
And so it is. After navigating the arctic wilderness, the three men arrive at the spookily quiet Colony 5. They discover a valid reason for that distress call: the colony’s residents are currently serving as breakfast, lunch, and supper for a small army of raging flesh-eaters. We’re told these are “feral” humans, not zombies. It’s a fine line, though, because they look, walk, and unleash bloody havoc just like zombies in movies and TV shows all over the world.
You can imagine the rest of the film’s unimaginative plot by closing your eyes. Yes, Graydon is quickly offed, and the zombies (feral humans) pursue the other two across the snow (all of the exteriors are CGI-created) all the way to Colony 7, where one of our heroes leads his fellow colonists in a courageous battle to fend off their frothing attackers and save the world, or at least their own skins.
The performances of Fishburne and Paxton are the only shining lights in this otherwise mediocre production. Both are excellent actors, and their work here is convincing and wholly committed, with no hint of embarrassment at what surrounds them.
Some of the action descriptions here would have been accompanied by “spoiler alert,” but for the reviewer’s belief that nothing about this film could possibly be spoiled for any self-aware viewer—except perhaps the sheltered 13-year-old mentioned above, to whom sincere apologies are extended.