Before we meet any of the characters in the Canadian sci-fi/horror film The Colony, we get a handful of establishing shots that give us a good long look at the two primary locations we'll be visiting over the course of the next 90-something minutes. First, we're shown some sort of weathered outpost located smack in the middle of a snowy wasteland. Second, we get a long tracking shot down a dingy, dimly-lit corridor filled with pipes and puddles. Sure, enough, the film delivers on its silent promise: if you love wintry wastelands and dimly-lit corridors, The Colony sure does offer a generous serving of both.
Our story is set in a post-apocalyptic future, which was triggered in a manner that seems awfully similar to the one served up in (the vastly superior) Snowpiercer: in an attempt to combat global warming, humans accidentally froze the earth and created a world where it never stops snowing. That'll teach you to try to fix global warming, you dumb humans! Anyway, large chunks of humanity were killed off as a result of the harsh climate, but small pockets of survivors are trying to carve out a livable existence for themselves in a handful of underground bunkers.
The group we're introduced to is Colony 7, which is overseen by the fair-minded Briggs (Laurence Fishburne, Hannibal) and his volatile right-hand man Mason (Bill Paxton, Frailty). Because survival is difficult and diseases have proven especially dangerous in this environment, the colony has had to implement a particularly harsh rule: if you get sick and you don't start getting better quickly, you're forced to either take a bullet or you're forced to wander the wasteland on your own. In other words, you can die fast or you can die slow.
Unfortunately, Mason has grown increasingly less interested in abiding by these rules, and has taken to simply shooting sick folks no matter what they choose. Just as a conflict between Mason and Briggs starts brewing, Colony 7 gets a distress signal from Colony 5. So, Briggs, blandly handsome protagonist Sam (Kevin Zegers, Gossip Girl) and almost-certainly-doomed supporting character Graydon (Atticus Mitchell, Stonewall) set off on a mission to figure out what went wrong.
Look, I'll just cut to the chase: they discover that the residents of Colony 5 have turned into a bunch of crazed, feral cannibals, and the next hour or so offers up a series of violent conflicts with those cannibals. They fight in the corridors. They fight in the snow. Then they go fight in some more corridors. The scant character development that had been introduced in the film's early scenes gets tossed out the window, as our characters concern themselves with running, screaming, shooting and stabbing. That would be more forgivable if the action were inventive or exciting, but it's all so generically staged and features just enough digital dross (obvious green screen backdrops, digital blood) to take all the punch out of everything.
Zegers is technically the lead, but he has no real defining qualities other than being young, scruffy and generically attractive. We know roughly as much about him as we do about the models in this week's Target flyer. He has a girlfriend played by Charlotte Sullivan (Fever Pitch), who greets Zegers by sticking a gun under his chin and then kissing him. See, she's sexy and badass! And she has blonde dreadlocks! As for Paxton and Fishburne... well, it hurts to see old pros like those guys trapped in nothing roles like the ones they're given here. Paxton is playing a one-dimensional villain who's barely given sufficient motivation for his ugly behavior. Fishburne gets a lot of screen time, but his considerable chops are wasted on a part that has him doing nothing but trudging through snow and running down corridors. Did the people who made this movie see Fishburne's incredible stage performance as Thurgood Marshall? Do they know who they're wasting here?
The only real praise I can toss in the direction of The Colony is that it looks more expensive than it is. It's a crappy-looking $16 million movie, but it has the appearance of a crapping-looking $40 million movie. Elsewhere, there's nothing but waste: a wasted premise, wasted actors, wasted wasteland. It's unmemorable bargain bin dreck.
Rating: ★ (out of four)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Year: 2013