Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Colony (2013)

Go To
The Colony is a 2013 post-apocalytic survival film starring Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Zegers.

The year is 2045, and humanity has been nearly eradicated by a devastating ice age. Pockets of civilization remain, hiding from the cold in underground structures. The residents of Colony 7 receive a distress signal from Colony 5 and go to investigate, setting off a chain of events that will change their lives forever.

This film contains examples of:

  • A House Divided: The first act sets things up that way, but by the time the Tyrant Takes the Helm after the death of Briggs, there's a bigger issue to worry about.
  • After the End: Due to Weather Control Machines Gone Horribly Right, the Earth has been plunged into a Glacial Apocalypse which has killed pretty much everything on the surface and left humans scarcely surviving with livestock and crops inside outpost shelters. It makes for some rather beautiful Scenery Gorn. Not least due to the nature of this apocalypse, some humans turned to cannibalism and went insane from starvation during the early days.
  • Air Vent Escape: Used by the cannibals to get around the defended door, and by the survivors to escape to the surface. Unlike other examples of this trope, climbing through the vents is very noisy, and the vents are a bit spacious enough to let people sit and have a short hand-to-hand combat.
  • Apocalypse How: For humanity it's a Class 2 approaching Class 3a, while the Earth overall has suffered a Class 4 approaching a Class 5. The remaining humans barring marauders such as the Cannibal Clan are forced to live in shelters where they struggle to grow livestock and vegetables under artificial sunlight, and nothing is capable of growing on the planet's surface due to the perpetual global blizzard.
  • Artistic License – Biology: It's implied that the trip from Colony 7 to Colony 5 takes at least a day, plus another one before the heroes even embark on the journey, yet when they arrive, all the pools and spatters of blood everywhere have neither dried nor frozen. Needless to say that Real Life blood behaves differently.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The Cannibal Leader is a pretty powerful hand-to-hand combatant and Briggs is a Retired Badass good enough to pull a pretty decent You Shall Not Pass! Taking You with Me Last Stand.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Sam vs. the Cannibal Leader, on the burning warehouse of Colony 7.
  • The Berserker: The cannibals are so far gone that they mindlessly attack and chase anything edible in sight with no regard for their own health or even life, and they neither hesitate nor retreat no matter how many casualties they take. Only their leader acts more restrained, but not by much.
  • Big Blackout: Played with; as the cannibals are breaking into Colony 7, the lights flicker causing a Mass "Oh, Crap!", but don't go out.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one end, the Cannibal Tribe is killed off, and Colony 7 now knows that another group has managed to fix some of the damage by the Weather Control Machines and made an "oasis", that they now have the coordinates of. On the other hand, Colony 7 has been completely destroyed, and only a handful of people (and one can full of seeds out of an entire warehouse) has survived. They now have no other option but to get to the oasis or perish. Sam has also been somewhat Maddened Into Misanthropy, if his final narrative speech (where he says that the only rule that matters now is "survive") is taken at face value.
  • Book Ends: The film starts with a man and a woman frantically hammering on a metal door at Colony 5. Later Mason locks the door on Sam and Kai, but fortunately Nara knocks him out and opens it in time.
  • Bring News Back: Even with the cannibal tribe following him, Sam has to return to Colony 7 to tell them about the colony that's got a weather machine working. The other colony has fertile soil and sunlight but no seeds, which Colony 7 has.
  • Cannibal Larder: What Briggs's group walk right into when they investigate the thunking noise at Colony 5.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: The Briggs/Mason division. Briggs is a Reasonable Authority Figure that tries to run the Colony with fairness (such as giving sick people time off in quarantine and testing before having to give them the Sadistic Choice of exile or death, as per procedure, and choosing to check on Colony 5 because they've made an agreement with it that includes going to check if it's in trouble) and Mason (who only bothers about the survival of Colony 7, no matter what).
  • Catapult Nightmare: Sam dreaming of finding his mother frozen to death.
  • Cold Equation: Anyone falling sick is expelled from the colony if they don't get better. Briggs mentions an incident where refugees in a stadium were shooting people once the food started to run out.
  • Communications Officer: Colony 7's radio operator, Cooper is a friend and ally of Briggs and Sam. During the attack of the cannobals he breaks out a gun but is taken by surprise and knocked unconscious, with his final fate being ambiguous, but probably bad.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The Cannibal Leader holds up the head of the man who escaped being shot by Mason to the security camera, then destroys the camera.
  • David Versus Goliath: Sam vs. the Cannibal Leader. Sam spends a good chunk of the fight being flung around and battered mercilessly.
  • Defector from Decadence: Mason and Briggs were soldiers who deserted a unit that was doing nothing to feed or shelter civilians during the early months of the ice age.
  • Earth That Was: Graydon enthuses about finding a crashed helicopter, wondering what it would be like to fly in one, and puzzles over a swimsuit magazine with its scantily-clad women frolicking in the sun. Briggs suggests he use it for a more pragmatic purpose.
  • Endless Winter: In the future, the Earth has been plunged into such a winter for decades as a result of weather-controlling machines meant to reverse Climate Change working a little too well before they shut down. As a result, the planet's surface is a frozen wasteland covered in a neverending global snowstorm, and the only things which grow now are livestock and crops with artificial sunlight in the remaining humans' shelters (and even these are implied to be failing).
    "One day... it started to snow. And it never stopped."
  • The Engineer: Dex, one of the sick people. He’s willing to go on the trip to Colony 5 but Sam insists on going in his place in case Colony 7’s turbines break down and need Dex to fix them.
  • Explosive Breeder: Inverted, the colony’s livestock is dying out due to the animals being too cold to display interest in sex and most of the new animals being stillborn. To quote Viktor:
    You know you’re screwed when even the rabbits won’t fuck.
  • Fallen Hero: According to Briggs, Mason was once just as idealistic and determined to save everyone as he did, before he Took a Level in Cynic and became as bad as some of the people they deserted from.
  • Fangs Are Evil: The cannibals are quickly identified as villains by their file-sharpened teeth.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: Played with; in the Cannibal Larder there's a pile of dismembered bodies, with a hand twitching as if a victim is still alive. However it turns out there are cannibals sleeping among them, so it may have just been one of them asleep.
  • For the Evulz: The only reason we get about why the cannibal tribe is doing all the horrible things it's doing is because they want "more".
  • Glacial Apocalypse: The movie revolves around a colony of people trying to survive a global Endless Winter brought upon by weather manipulation machines trying to reduce global warning and working way too well at that. By the time the film starts, people are losing their minds, and much to the horror of the protagonists, a Cannibal Tribe has found them.
  • Go Mad from the Apocalypse:
    • In the absence of food caused by the Glacial Apocalypse, people devolving to cannibalism is a horrific problem. Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton's characters were part of the military before it fully collapsed, and they abandoned a stadium-based refugee center when it devolved into a military dictatorship where the ones in charge started "taking undesirables upstairs" to combat their food shortages. The main antagonists of the movie are revealed to be a roaming post-apocalyptic bandit tribe whom have turned to cannibalizing any other survivors they find — these cannibals don't even act human anymore; never saying more than one word between all of them for the entire movie, shrieking and snarling like animals, having filed their teeth to points, and making a Cannibal Larder that would impress the Sawyers.
    • Furthermore, Paxton's aforementioned character, Mason, has clearly started to lose his mind at the movie's start decades into the apocalypse. He breaks an important colony rule of giving two quarantined cold patients whom have to be cast out the choice between dying or taking their chances in the snow so that he can shoot them himself, he does it again in his leader's absence after being explicitly told not to, and he wastes no time taking charge after his leader's death and making it clear he'll be ruling with an even more iron fist before the cannibals' arrival renders his rule extremely short-lived.
  • Gone Horribly Right: When global warming was threatening mankind's survival on Earth, a system of huge weather-manipulating towers was set up to counter the effect. It worked so well that the planet fell into an eternal winter instead, setting the stage for the film's plot two decades later.
  • Gone Mad From The Isolation: The Sole Survivor of Colony 5 has locked himself behind a steel door, and won't come out for any reason even though he's starving to death.
  • Green Aesop: The eternal winter that's choking Earth to death is indirectly but explicitly the result of Mankind's overuse of fossil fuels.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: The fuse of the dynamite Briggs sets on the bridge doesn't light easily, and blows out when he plants it, forcing him to go back and blow it up himself in a Heroic Sacrifice. And it doesn't light easily the second time, either.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Two major ones.
    • Briggs blows himself up to destroy the bridge between Colony 7 and Colony 5. The cannibals end up taking the long route, but he still killed quite a few of them.
    • Mason later shoots a propane tank to take out all but the leader.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Sam beats and decapitates Cannibal Leader in a savage frenzy, and says at the end that the only rule left is to survive.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The cannibal tribe has turned to this either from going mad or getting truly desperate.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The Cannibal Leader kills Mason's lieutenant by hurling a piece of rebar through his chest like a javelin.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The first symptom of disease amongst the Colony 7 survivors - and literally because Mason's first option for dealing with sick people is Boom, Headshot!. One man desperately tries to keep his sick wife from being heard by others when she develops it.
  • Ironic Echo: "Nothing Personal."
  • Jerkass: Mason.
  • Jerkass Has a Point
    • Mason opposes the mission to Colony 5 on the grounds that they're unlikely to be able to help and that the resources would be better spent preserving themselves. He's proven right on both counts.
    • Mason also criticizes Sam for leaving a trail that brings the cannibals back to Colony 7. Sam knew the cannibals were following his footprints and that there was another way across the river, so he knew coming home would directly endanger the colony.
  • Large and in Charge: Cannibal Leader
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Sam leaves a pistol for a wounded Mason, who points it at Sam as if to shoot him. Sam coldly reminds him that he's going to need every bullet against the cannibals who are breaking through the door.
  • The Load: Graydon during the trip to Colony 5. He complains all the time, freaks out constantly, doesn't contribute anything to the task at hand, ultimately gives the heroes away to the cannibals when they first meet, and finally gets himself killed when he runs away blindly without waiting for the others. He does volunteer in the first place, when Briggs was having trouble getting people to go, but he's never really been out of the Colony before, and it shows.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Laurence Fishburne is Bill Paxton and Bill Paxton is Laurence Fishburne.
  • Never Split the Party: On seeing a blood trail leading into the dark chimney, Graydon nervously suggests he wait up on the surface. The others force him to come along, but he gets too far ahead of the others while they're fleeing the cannibals, and is killed.
  • The Night That Never Ends: The Earth's skies have been perpetually covered by snowclouds that have prevented direct sunlight from reaching the surface for decades by the time the movie takes place, to the point the protagonist can't remember what sunlight feels like.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Administered by Sam to the Cannibal Leader with an iron bar to end the fight. Turns out that the Leader is tough enough (and smart enough) to be able to play dead, prompting Sam to find a different way to make sure he's finished for good...
  • Noisy Guns: A double-barrelled shotgun makes a pump-action sound.
  • Off with His Head!: The cannibal leader is killed by Sam chopping his head off. From the jaw upwards.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Also serves as a Chekhov's Skill. The kid steals Briggs' lighter, but Briggs notices (just as well as he needs it to light the dynamite). Later, Sam is handcuffed to a bed, so the kid lifts the handcuff key off Mason and helps Sam escape.
  • Pursued Protagonist: The first scene shows two Colony 5 residents running through a bunker's tunnel until they reach a locked door. They beg for the man hiding inside to let them in as unseen figures quickly close in on the two fugitives and the camera cuts to the next scene. It's never shown what happened to them, but it's heavily implied that they're killed and cannibalized like everyone else besides the man hiding behind the locked door.
  • Retired Badass: It doesn't often come up during the day-to-day of managing the colony, but with his military background, Briggs can hold his own in melee combat.
  • Rope Bridge: One made of concrete and steel girders, but falling apart after years of harsh weather and neglect.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: Both the futuristic weather machines and the modern cities' skylines, river-spanning bridges and wrecked vehicles are still visible on the Earth's surface, preserved in the ice and cold.
  • Sadistic Choice: Anyone who gets sick and fails to get better has two options: a bullet or walking off into the snow, never to return. Mason doesn't even give them the luxury of walking, convinced they'll just get desperate and come back for a bullet anyway.
  • Sanity Slippage: The Cannibals have clearly lost all semblance of sanity, Mason starts to lose his earlier on and it's hinted that it might be the case for Sam at the end.
  • Scenery Gorn: We get numerous nice shots of what's left of Earth - a frozen wasteland dotted with the ruins of a civilization that recklessly brought about its own destruction.
  • Screaming Warrior: Cannibal Leader and the rest of his tribe. Justified as they've become The Speechless.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The only survivor from Colony 5 insists on locking himself up inside of a heavily-reinforced room and forces the Colony 7 team out after giving them some exposition on the "oasis" that another group of colonists made. Pity he didn't tell them much about the cannibals, though.
  • Send in the Search Team: The first act of the story involves sending someone to find out why Colony 5 stopped transmitting.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: The first time Briggs sets off a dynamite charge, it's underground, hence the aversion of Steel Eardrums.
  • Shout-Out: Cannibal Leader saying that the only thing he wanted was "More" may be one to Oliver Twist. Remember the "more" Oliver asks for is more food, about the only thing that matters to the cannibals.
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: Used effectively against the cannibals in Mason's last stand.
  • The Speechless: The Cannibal Leader is the only member of their tribe we hear speak, and only a single word: "More."
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: One appears on a video feed. He managed to fix one of the weather machines that caused the freeze to bring about a thaw in the surrounding icy terrain, but his group needs seeds (which the protagonists have) to grow food and start over.
  • Stand Your Ground: Attempted by Viktor, but he doesn't have the authority or combat skill to uphold it.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The cannibal tribe will not stop, even if chasing the protagonists is killing them off quickly. Perhaps justifiable since they really have no other source of food.
  • Tag Line: "Hell has frozen over."
  • The Chase: The second half of the film involves the citizens of Colony 7 being chased by the cannibal tribe.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Once news of Briggs' death reaches Colony 7, Mason tries to take charge. The cannibals quickly take that option off the table.
  • Wasteland Elder: Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) is a former soldier who gathered a few dozen people to survive the second ice age in an underground colony and struggles to keep his Well-Intentioned Extremist second in command in line while working toward goals that will help their long-term survival.
  • Weather-Control Machine: The reason for the eternal winter. They were initially built to combat global warming. They certainly made it colder. One group of humans has managed to get one back online and undone the cloud cover in their vicinity.
  • Wham Line: Briggs's group investigates further into Colony 5 because they heard a thunking noise. When they meet the Sole Survivor who intentionally locked himself in a room, he insists that he's not the one making such noise, hinting that there are other people in that place; the cannibals.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • It's unrevealed if the survivor from Colony 5 survived a large part of the Colony being destroyed in an explosion, or if he was able or willing to get out and try to make it somewhere after the cannibals left in pursuit of Briggs and Sam.
    • Several people from Colony 7 also disappear during the climax and aren’t seen either being killed or escaping at the end.