The Colony (2013)

Even Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton can’t save ‘The Colony’ from disaster

Photo of Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton in The Colony (2013)

Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton in The Colony (2013)

Synopsis

Give the filmmakers credit. After a few lines of oblique explanation about climate-change machines gone wrong, a character just gives up trying to offer willing-suspension-of-disbelief-type rationales and says simply that "One day, it started to snow, and it never stopped." And, after the inevitable famines and political collapse, what's left of humanity is huddled in far-flung colonies, searching satellite images for signs of a thaw and living in fear of diseases that could finish them off.

But one day they get a distress signal from another colony a few days' journey away. Their leader, Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), predictably pragmatic but retaining some sense of obligation and humanity, decides to have a look, and takes along technician Sam (Kevin Zegers), and another guy, who is played by a nameless actor so that you know he'll be the first to die a gruesome death when the inevitable bad stuff begins to break loose.

So, of course, they find the neighboring colony seemingly deserted. Except for some ... well, what are those guys anyway? They have the table manners of cavemen, and a zombie-like capacity to take a beating and keep on eating. Time to high-tail it back home.

And meanwhile, back at the ranch, second-in-command Mason (Bill Paxton) is running amok, executing sick residents when he should be giving them a few days in solitary confinement to prove they just have sniffles rather than virulent flu.

Skip It

Now normally I wouldn't go so deep into the plot ... I hate spoilers. But if none of this has come as much surprise to you so far, neither will the rest of it.

The Colony is the perfect reminder that Hollywood views movies as product, not art. And not even product like a fine dining experience. More like fast food. Take a known quantity like a burger, add a few trendy ingredients like jalapenos and a ciabatta roll, and spin up an advertising campaign that pretends you have created something exciting and new.

The filmmakers start with the well worn post-apocalyptic genre, add veteran actors Fishburne and Paxton, and try earnestly to pretend there is something interesting going on here. Alas, no, there is not. Fishburne and Paxton, with roles scripted for big performances, do their craftsmanlike best not to overplay it. But it's quite beyond their talents to make this product palatable. After a few bites, it'll just leave you with a slightly queasy feeling and some regret at having been taken in by the advertising.