Written by: Matt Patti | August 26th, 2021
The Colony (Tim Fehlbaum, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Director Tim Fehlbaum’s The Colony clearly takes inspiration from other dystopian works that have come before it, yet it offers its own unique flair. In the film, Earth has been abandoned due to an onslaught of pandemics, climate-change events, and wars. The elite members of the human race have been evacuated and now live on a distant planet in the Kepler system. Years later, they send a mission back to Earth to investigate if it is once again habitable. The first mission, Ulysses 1, unfortunately fails, as contact is lost and no one knows if anyone on the expedition survived. Now, a second mission, Ulysses 2, is launched. Among those taking part in the Ulysses 2 mission is Blake (Nora Arnezeder, Army of the Dead), the daughter of one of the Ulysses 1 astronauts. Blake is driven and focused, venturing out to Earth to assess living conditions and also search for any remnants of Ulysses 1, holding out hope of finding her father.
The Colony offers vivid, impressive visuals of a post-apocalyptic Earth. A daunting score accompanies many of the dreary shots of what the planet has become, as it is no longer the world that the Kepler humans once recognized. All technical elements of the film are up to par, and though they aren’t quite on the level of some larger sci-fi epics, the atmosphere works well for the plot. The mission of searching for life, and more specifically, evidence that procreation is possible, is Blake and her colleagues’ main goal. However, their plans are soon upended when they are captured by a band of survivors still inhabiting the Earth. These scavenger-like humans are quite different than those that are on Kepler, speaking in a guttural language and living a gritty lifestyle. It’s quite intriguing to see how this group survives and to see their way of life. Blake discovers many surprising truths about this new world and there are twists, some predictable, some not so much, that keep the viewer invested.
The visuals and the plot keep the film afloat, but, sadly, the characters hold it back from being a truly memorable sci-fi experience. They all work well enough for the story, but none of them stand out as layered or distinctive enough to invoke more than a standard interest. Blake’s noteworthy connection to Ulysses 1 and her emotional aim to find her father makes her the film’s most compelling character, for sure, but there are few specific character traits that make her character stand out to the audience. Arnezeder delivers a fine performance, but Blake is just not the most inspiring, invigorating central character. But perhaps she doesn’t need to be such a strong protagonist. Blake is faced with many difficult decisions throughout, and someone in her predicament, traversing a planet of unknowns, likely would act exactly the way she does: cautious, confused, and piecing things together one step at a time.
Overall, The Colony does what it sets out to do. The film plays well within the confines of its environment, though I do think the film could benefit from exploring more of the new Earth and pushing the boundaries a bit further. The characters also could be given a bit more attention, but they also work well for the most part in the grounded, bleak setting of the film. Though the movie feels derivative of many similar sci-fi flicks, its plot is distinctive enough to hold interest with its twists and turns. The Colony ultimately functions as an enjoyable, thought-provoking work of science fiction that has an eerily realistic feel to it.