THE COLONY (2021)
2021, R, 104 mins.
2021, R, 104 mins.
Nora Arnezeder as Blake / Iain Glen as Gibson / Sarah-Sofie Boussnina as Narvik / Sope Dirisu as Tucker / Sebastian Roché as Father / Joel Basman as PalingDirected by Tim Fehlbaum / Written by Fehlbaum, Mariko Minoguchi, Jo Rogers and Tim Trachte
THE COLONY is a
new German-Swiss post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that contains ambitious
amounts of atmosphere and world building on what I'm assuming is a limited
budget. It's an interesting
cinematic cocktail, to be sure (think WATERWORLD meets MAD
MAX meets CHILDREN OF MEN)
and has a central narrative that involves humanity leaving the climate
change ravaged Earth of the distant future to find a new home on a
different planet, only to then return back to Earth 150 years later to see what has
become of their former home. Writer/director
Tim Fehlbaum has created a film that looks sensational on the cheap on top
of having some compelling themes at its core about the nature of class
warfare and the dangerous power of colonization.
Not all of it flows together as smoothly as he would like, but
THE COLONY crafts a unique take on well worn genre material, and does so
with a few nifty tricks up its sleeve.
And in pure dystopian sci-fi fashion,
the Earth here looks in really,
really rough shape. When
people left the planet and made a safe haven on Kepler 209 they soon
discovered that - after a few generations - extending the species has
become impossible, which prompts a crew to rocket back and check on
whether they can re-colonize it. The clock is ticking, especially considering that the current
generation on Kepler 209 is getting older and is unable to have babies,
which precipitates the mission to Earth. The most recent attempt ends in catastrophe when
the vessel crashes in the what's left of the dried up ocean floor.
Nearly everyone is killed, minus Blake (ARMY
OF THE DEAD's Nora Arnezeder) and Tucker (Sope Dirisu).
They both realize the severity of their predicament and the
necessity to find food and shelter, leading to them venturing out into
what's left of their planet. To their amazement, Blake and Tucker soon discover that they
are definitely not alone and make contact with a wild and nomadic clan of
humans that are all under the age of 30.
We also learn that a first mission was sent out before Nora and
Tucker's, and it becomes apparent that these tribal souls may be remnants
of that doomed expedition.
As Blake begins
to acclimate into these peoples' world - which begins predictably hostile
- she finds herself being befriended by a young girl named Maila (Bella
Bading) and her mother, Narvik (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina), but it appears
that a larger group of survivors exists that live outside of the
smaller group and have been taking full advantage of them in a Darwinian
survival of the fittest arc. And
Blake finds - through all of this - some shocking reveals in this power
struggle that has ties to her family's past. For the most part, THE COLONY coasts by early on in its tale
of dark discovery for Blake and highlights her arduous journey as an
astronaut that crash lands in very unknown territory and has to navigate
her way through the remnants of humanity and all of the secrets that they
contain. Arnezeder is an
arresting presence in the film as far as protagonists go, and she
certainly is trying to occupying a genre that has its fair share of tough,
rugged, and determined heroines. Blake
a world weary and steely eyed perseverance, to be sure, but she also
maintains a guarded vulnerability throughout that allows for her to have a
bit more complexity; she's definitely not a throwaway, kick ass action
hero here, and I admired the nuance that Arnezeder brings to the table.
THE COLONY, as
previously mentioned, also looks superb, albeit in a washed out, dim, and
grimy kind of way that may turn some viewers off.
Markus Forderer's aggressively bleak cinematography does a bravura
job of selling a futuristic Earth of perpetual ecological decay.
The planet looks like one waterlogged hellhole, which makeshift
shelters being stitched together by whatever improvised building material
is left in this macabre wasteland. There's
a foreboding and dark grandeur to the imagery here, which shows how well THE
COLONY sells its desolate world of tomorrow.
I can certainly understand how some viewers will find this film too
morose to sit through, and Fehlbaum absolutely is more enamored with
generating a mood and texture to his world than peppering it with
obligatory action beats. This
is anything but an audience placating piece of post-apocalyptic sci-fi,
but that's precisely what marks it effective for me.
That, and THE
COLONY is commendably an ideas-driven sci-fi thriller, and its overall moral
outlook on what colonizing is like for both the colonizer and those that
are colonized is intriguing. Blake
finds herself on the early receiving end of a less than warm welcome from
the humans she first comes in contact with, and in their mind this
newcomer is an instant threat to disrupting their way of life (with the
irony being, of course, that they are all human beings with ties to the
Earth, in one form or another). There's a lot to be said about how THE COLONY is tackling
ideas that are hardly new to the genre (stories of class struggles versus
the haves and have nots are as old as the film medium itself), and
sub-themes about rich fat cats thinking they have ownership and privilege
over other perceived lesser cultures has an undeniable timeliness as well.
Added on to that is the fact that countless sci-fi thrillers of the
past have tackled our world being decimated by man-made natural disasters.
What's in THE COLONY is hardly fresh and new, but on a conceptual
level Fahlbaum is at least opting for the more thoughtful route through
the subject matter versus inundating us with visual effects and mindless
Not everything is
well realized, though, especially for how the film begins to traverse down a tricky rabbit hole of Blake's own perceptions of motherhood
as well as her fractured memories of her own father
(Sebastian Roche), who we learn was in the party of the first exploratory
mission back to Earth and is presumed dead.
Sometimes, the screenplay here in this regard doesn't feel as
nurtured as it wants to, leading to THE COLONY having a bit of an
unfocused vibe at times. And
the villain of the piece (difficult to discuss without engaging in
spoilers) is a vile figurehead that begins with noble intentions and is
later revealed to be a tyrant that considers those under him to
be savages to tame. It's all
a little too aggressively on the nose for me in terms of relatable
historical analogies. THE
COLONY is brimming with good ideas and, at its heart, has a lot it wants
to say about said ideas, but not all of its commentary sticks to landing
in the end.