The Colony gets off to a really intriguing start. It introduces the audience to a future where the remnants of humanity have moved underground, where close spaces mean even the most common of diseases can have devastating effects on the entire community. Given the naturally occurring danger presented by the setting, it is surprising that the film had to go elsewhere to find its antagonists. And in comparison, the film’s actual threat is downright underwhelming.
The film takes place in a future where Earth has been ravaged by a second ice age. The survivors of humanity have moved into underground colonies, living off meager resources and fearing the slightest indication of sickness. Colony 7 receives a distress call from nearby Colony 5. The leader of the colony, Briggs (Laurence Fishburne), along with his trusted friend Sam (Kevin Zegers), hikes over to Colony 5 to help out. There, they discover a grave threat to their survival, as well as hope for their future salvation.
The concept is solid enough, and it's backed up by decent visuals. The cold, snowy, post-apocalyptic landscape gives the film a rather unique look. Inside the colony itself, the little details of everyday life are pretty compelling. But the film loses its way as it searches for a plot. At first, the film makes business out of a growing conflict within the colony itself, before largely abandoning that thread as the action moves outside. It then becomes a bit of mystery movie, but the answers come fairly quick. Then it goes into full-on horror-action mode, and whatever big ideas the movie might have had are lost in a haze of plot holes.
The film relies on its threat to create any sort of tension in the back half. But the threat doesn’t make any practical sense. The inhabitants of the colonies seem far better organized and armed than their foe. The danger that the threat represents is never very convincing, the film relying on gore and really awkward staging to make any of it effective. The film seems to be trying to make a larger point about how greed and lust for power tears civilization apart, but it just doesn’t get through all the obvious plot holes.
The supporting members of the cast outshine the leads of the film. Kevin Zegers just isn’t a very compelling presence on screen, the actor lacking any sort of distinctive feature, physical or otherwise. He just seems like he could be replaced by any number of other young male actors. Meanwhile, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton get juicier roles, and are able to spin some drama out of the hackneyed material.
It should be noted that the version of The Colony being screened in our cinemas seems to have been cut, as well. It’s a pretty obvious cut, since it happens quite visibly in the climax of the movie. The film isn’t very good to begin with, the plot just barely hanging together and its central threat completely unconvincing. A sanitized version of this movie is just a little bit worse. The Colony looks pretty good for what it is, but there’s just no going beneath that alluring, post-apocalyptic surface. It’s just frozen all the way down, its best ideas trapped in the ice.