Sometimes, picking an unknown movie off of Netflix is like playing roulette: you spin the wheel and hope it lands on something good. The main hope is that it does not become the Russian variety, or make you feel like playing it. As the opening credits rolled for The Colony (2021), alternatively titled Tides (which makes more sense), my first thought was “uh-oh.” Luckily, there was no gun within reach. I am being crude and overly dramatic. Still, the movie does little to lift one’s spirits. It is muddy, tide-y, foggy, depressing for most of its run time, and German (of the Swiss persuasion). Luckily, it is also in English, less than two hours, and has a happy ending.
The Colony in question is a distant planet that the Earth’s elite had traveled to when our home planet became too pandemic and war-ridden to inhabit. Unfortunately, Kepler-209, where they established the title settlement, does not seem to be a garden spot, either. I say “seem” because it is never shown to us, we are just told that it sucks. As such, the former Earthlings are sending missions back home to see if our planet is once more livable. This becomes all the more important when you factor in that the human population on Kepler is no longer able to sustain itself, specifically through reproduction. Unfortunately, their first endeavor apparently failed. So, when first you do not succeed, you send the daughter of the original mission leader, Louise Blake (Nora Arnezeder), to attempt the same thing. It appears her spacecraft is headed for a similar fate when it has a rough landing, splashing down in the water and killing one of their crew members in the process. The second of their trio, Tucker (Sope Dirisu), is injured and stays with their capsule. While Louise scouts the area, their pod is attacked by local human remnants, who drag it back to their ragged, floating settlement nearby. Louise returns to find them in the process of hauling their ship away, and she, too, is captured. Even though she pleads that she is there to help, they hold her and Tucker in a hole in the tidal muck. Her main mission, though, is to get a hold of the data readings they had been able to collect to this point, and send them back to Kepler so the overall goal of recolonizing Earth can commence. Before Maila (Bella Bading), the local girl she manages to befriend, can retrieve said item, their camp is raided by a different band of humans, this one with guns, kidnapping Maila along with the device. In the aftermath, Louise encounters Maila’s mother, Narvik (Sofia-Sofie Boussnina), and follows her as she tracks the attackers back to their boat. When Louise and Narvik catch up with them, Narvik wants to attack right away with a flare gun. Instead, Louise knocks out Narvik, distracts the ruffians with the flare, and slips into the boat. Because she is not able to free the gadget before they get back, Louise disguises herself as a captive and departs with them. They arrive at the sight of a wrecked and in the process of being dismantled cargo freighter, which appears to be the base for the attackers. After the prisoners are offloaded, they are inspected a man named Paling (Joel Basman), who begins sorting them by their uses. He notices something strange about Louise, and it becomes apparent that she is not from around these parts. In turn, she is taken to their leader, Gibson (Iain Glen), who is one of the survivors of the first Kepler mission. She is quite relieved to meet him, and he tells her of the work they have been doing since he landed on the planet. Louise’s thoughts naturally turn to her father (Sebastian Roché), and Gibson says he died when their ship was destroyed upon their arrival. She overcomes this blow by talking about the device, and how it has what they need for them to complete their mission. Still, not everything is as it seems with Gibson. In chatting with his adopted son, Neil (Eden Gough), she learns that there is a prisoner held in the ship. The clues Neil gives about this mystery person suggest that it could be her father, and her subsequent investigation reveals this to be the case. Gibson claims that his former crewmate is being held there because he led a rebellion, betraying Kepler by trying to prevent the planned repatriation. Louise is further repulsed by Gibson when it becomes clear that he is holding young girls hostage, like Maila, in order for them to be bred with the Keplers when they return. As such, when a disturbance on the lower decks turns out to be Narvik trying to rescue Maila, she decides to help them. While this is going on, Gibson heads for a still functioning weather beacon in order to attempt to broadcast the data Louise had collected to Kepler. Because she now sides with the people of Earth, she tries to stop Gibson, but is too late. Nonetheless, she manages to drown Gibson, and is rescued by Narvik before she succumbs to the same fate. This is basically where the movie ends.
I have seen a couple of post-apocalyptic movies lately, and I would count The Colony among them. If you see enough movies of this sub-genre, you will notice a few shared themes between them. The one that stands out to this Catholic reviewer is how people in these scenarios treat each other barbarically. Do we truly need governments and law and order to be civil towards one another? One thing I have noticed in culture, and this film is no exception, that when forms of social order break down, people started murdering each other. Another thing that always seems to be absent from these dystopian societies is Faith. Mao Zedong was paraphrasing his communist forebear when he said that religion is the opiate of the masses. In culture, it is one of the things that is typically blamed for society ending up as it does in today’s film. If it is not one of the factors that leads to war, genocide, oppression, or all of the above, it is something that is seen by the villains as a possible tool on the path of gaining power over the already downtrodden as we see with Carnegie (Gary Oldman) in The Book of Eli (2010). What the Marx’s, Maos, and Carnegies of the fictional and real world do not understand about Faith is that it is voluntary. There is, of course, a sad side to this notion. Ask any pastor these days about how they feel about the voluntary nature of participation on Sundays, and they might tell you that they wished God instilled it on our hearts as more of an obligation. The point is that Faith (including Christianity, especially) should not be blamed for wholesale societal ills, particularly when history, be it fictional or real, demonstrates that as we move away from God, we become more violent. God’s love does not countenance killing one another, no matter what certain pundits might tell you. In this light, is it little wonder that The Colony is as miserable as it is?
The little glimmer of hope at the end of The Colony does not erase the mire of the rest of the film. I mean this figuratively and literally as all the characters are still covered in all kinds of muck and mud. Yes, Louise and company get away in the end, but there is still the impending arrival of the people from Kepler, which Louise came to view with dread. There is also a vague message about fertility, which is sort of nice, but then made all the more obvious when they show Louise getting her period, something that women on Kepler could no longer do. This, along with the language and violence, make it a movie I would suggest that you avoid.